Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Wow!

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, Wind SW 20-40 mph Occasional brief sprinkle, and even some hail!

We had nothing new in town or at Sweeper, so we headed north. We saw the Hawfinch and Bramblings at the Thrush Feeder. We got a call from Jim, informing us they had an Eye-browed Thrush at the Adak National Forest. Of course, it flew away before we arrived! That makes 4 Eye-browed Thrushes we have missed on this trip!

They also told us they had 2 Wood Sandpipers at the marsh.

We went up to Clam Lagoon, and scoped the flats. I found a large (30-40) flock of shorebirds out in the middle and I assumed they were Sanderlings. We drove up to the west observation point and I walked out onto the flats to have a look. Our previous experience with Sanderlings out here is when you find a nice-sized flock like this, you check it to see if anything else has joined them.

I don’t take my scope out on the flats, just my camera. I got close enough to take a bunch of pictures. With binos, I could see there were several Dunlin mixed in with them. See?

When I got back to the truck, I took a quick look to see what else I might have missed. Sure enough, I quickly picked out a Red-necked Stint in the first good photo i looked at.

We called Jim’s group and luckily, they were not far and joined us shortly. As they were getting ready to walk out, I looked at more photos and soon realized that there wasn’t just one Red-necked Stint, but ALL of them were!!!

There were no Sanderlings. These were all breeding-plumage stints.

The most Red-necked Stints we had ever seen out here at one time was two!

This was unbelievable.

Eventually, we counted 45 stints, 5 Dunlin, and 1 Red-necked Phalarope. The count was made from the photos.

Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins and Red-necked Phalarope, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Red-necked Phalarope (5th bird from left) and Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins and Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Initially, the flock was around 30+, but we came back a few hours later and it had grown to the numbers cited above (45 RNST, 6 DUNL, and 1 RNPH).

There are records such as this from the Western Aleutians (Attu and Shemya), with as many as 50. But this is certainly a record for the Central Aleutians.

On the second trip around to look at the stints, another birding group showed up — Yvonne’s group — and they walked out with me to get nice looks at them also.

We continued around to the Seawall and then Lake Shirley. As I was scanning the ducks, I saw some gray shorebirds on the far shoreline. They were 3 Common Greenshanks.

3 Common Greenshanks, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2017.

Common Greenshank, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2017.

Again, Jim’s group caught up to us and saw the birds. We then decided to walk around to get closer views (as you can see from my photos, Lake Shirley is far across). However, as we rounded a bluff that hid our approach, they flew off. But as they did, another bird called from nearby. It was a Wood Sandpiper. We hadn’t even noticed it, being so caught up with the greenshanks.

There was still a pair of Tufted Ducks on Lake Ronnie, and Jim’s group had a Black-headed Gull fly by as they were scanning from Zeto Point.

On the way back along the Seawall, we had a flock of 6 Ruddy Turnstones.

Yesterday, I mentioned a “funny-looking” gull — all immature gulls are “funny-looking” to me! Well, the gull experts have weighed in to identify it as a Slaty-backed Gull.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2017.

We found another “funny-looking” gull today. I will post it when we figure it out.

Our trip list is 73, just 3 shy of our record. The winds are still from the southwest…

Monday, May 22, 2017

Temp in the 40s, rain, overcast, Wind WSW 15-30 mph.

One of the few days that we have had on Adak where it rained pretty constantly all day — although the intensity varied.

Last night, Jim and John went out, but turned the wrong direction — easy to do when you first arrive here — and stumbled on a Common Sandpiper in a slough next to the airport! It was still here this morning, although I couldn’t get photos.

Up at Contractors’ Camp marsh, they heard, and later saw, a Wood Sandpiper. We went there later in the day and heard it call, but couldn’t find it.

We had an immature gull up at Clam Lagoon which we could not identify. We sent photos to several birders who are much better than us at identifying gulls. We will post the photos and identification once we get it figured out.

The Hawfinch and flock of Bramblings continue to visit the Thrush Feeder, and 6 more Bramblings are visiting the Blue Building Feeder. The Brambling numbers are way down. We are not seeing the large flocks as we drive around. The ones that are still here are mostly at feeders now.

At the Seawall, I spotted a flock of about 20 shorebirds flying, but they were too far away to identify. They flew back into the Seawall down towards the Breaches, but when we got back down there, I couldn’t find any. Probably Turnstones or Sanderlings. Maybe we will find them tomorrow.

The strong westerly winds are slated to continue until Saturday morning. They brought in a couple of sandpipers already. Keep em coming…

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind W 15 to 30 mph.

No new birds today.

It is spring, so here are some flowers.

Arctic Daisies, Adak, May 21, 2017

Dandelions — they grow everywhere, Adak, May 21, 2017

The fish-processing ship was active today and we saw at least 4 Laysan Albatrosses out there, but no other stiff-wings.

There are still 20 or so Bramblings and 1 Hawfinch coming to the Thrush Feeder and 3 Bramblings at the Blue Building Feeder.

We also had another Hawfinch in town, but he has not yet shown up at a feeder.

The west wind today made Kuluk Bay and Sitkin Sound in the lee, so they were relatively calm. Without waves crashing over it, Goose Rocks provided a safe haven to rest.

Goose Rocks festooned with gulls, eider, and cormorants, May 21, 2017

All of the other birders left today, but three more arrived. So we will still have the benefit of extra eyes and ears this week.

Lastly, all of the deteriorating buildings here have created a new art form — broken-window-art. A few samples…

Raptor swooping in…

Kingfisher? Pileated?

Keep those west winds blowing!

Saturday, May 20,2017.

Temp in the 40s, sunny and calm at dawn, overcast and wind West at 15-25 mph by evening. No rain.

Okay, let’s get it over with…

Mandatory Bald Eagle head shot, Adak, May 20,2017.

The bay was calm this morning, making it easier to spot alcids at a distance. We picked up both puffins and saw a lot of Ancient Murrelets and Common Murres.

Keith’s group went out on the Puk-Uk this morning and, although they did not see large numbers of birds, they did get the target species — Whiskered and Crested auklets — and more.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the Bar-tailed Godwit flock had dwindled to four. Today there were only two. They are moving on.

The Bramblings are also moving on. We are seeing far fewer numbers the past two days. However, there are still about 20 at the Thrush Feeder, as well as the Hawfinch.

My Yellow Wagtail perch experiment has to pay off, but as I walked out there today, they flew out and back towards Barb, who saw them briefly. Still no photos!

At the Seawall, John pointed out a Yellow-billed Loon to us — still too far for photos. He had an Arctic Loon yesterday, but we did not see it today.

A pair of Snow Buntings are frequenting the Sandy Cove Bluffs Rock Feeder.

Snow Bunting, Sandy Cove Bluffs Rock Feeder, , May 20,2017.

We have not seen the injured Tufted Duck at the Airport Ponds today, but there was a healthy pair there as well as a pair on Lake Ronnie.

Tufted Ducks, Airport Ponds, May 20,2017.

The fish-processing ship was processing today, attracting a large flock of gulls, but no pelagics. Also, this ship is anchored farther out in the bay, making identifying odd gulls almost impossible.

Our trip list is 66 — two over our average — after less than a week and within shooting range of our May high of 76.

The wind has shifted to the west and is supposed to increase in speed and become southwest with rain the next few days. Ideal for dropping Asian birds on us.

Our fingers are crossed…

Friday, May 19, 2017

More dickey birds…

Temp in the 40s, Partly sunny!, Wind N 10-15 mph.

Did we mention the earthquakes? We had one on Monday morning about 3:30 and another around 9:30 PM last night. Now these are not building-tumbling temblors. These are more three-shakes-and-done. They are most noticeable when lying in bed, as the bed rocks a little.

Also yesterday, we saw an injured male Tufted Duck at the Airport Ponds. Its left wing appeared to be damaged somehow. It could not lift it to flap it. We did not see it today.

The Yellow Wagtails up at the marsh have been frustrating me no end! I have been trying to get a photo, but every time I approach the area, they see me before I see them and they take off. They hide in the reeds and are impossible to see. So I am trying a new tactic. I went out and placed some sticks (pieces of boards) into the marsh where they hang out and hope they will perch on them (sure!). This was suggested by Keith’s group.

As we were driving out of the marsh (after placing the sticks) we got a call from Keith’s group that they had a Hawfinch at the Thrush Feeder (less than a quarter-mile from where we were). John’s group was also just leaving the marsh, so we all arrived shortly and the Hawfinch flew in, then out, then in, etc. affording everyone good views and photo-ops.

Hawfinch, Thrush Feeder (near Navfac Creek), May 19, 2017.

That now makes six Asian passerine species! Wow!

Over at Haven Lake, we found a good bird — American Wigeon. All wigeon out here are presumed Eurasian until proven otherwise. Americans occur here every year, but in very low numbers.

We went up to the Blue Buildings to try for the Eye-browed Thrush. While walking around looking for it (we did not see it) I found a pair of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches courting. While one just sat nearby (I assume the Female), the other cocked his tail and fluttered his wings, trying to impress.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

The fish-processing ship left last night, but what appears to be another is now anchored in Kuluk Bay. Although a fishing boat tied up to them this morning, we have not seen any signs of fish-processing going on and the gulls are ignoring it.

More and more Bramblings are finding our feeders. Here are some more photos.

Bramblings at a “feeder”, Adak, May 19, 2017

Bramblings, Adak, May 19, 2017

Brambling, Adak, May 19, 2017

Just as the Yellow Wagtail is frustrating me photo-wise, Barb is getting just as frustrated not being able to see the Rustic Bunting and White Wagtail since we first found them. Each day since, other groups have seen one or the other or both, but every time we stop by, they are nowhere to be found! This afternoon, we made a concerted effort that only resulted in my seeing the wagtail fly across the creek and out-of-sight over the bluff (Barb didn’t see it!) and Barb getting a brief glimpse of the bunting before it vanished into the weeds. So, still frustrated…

The Puk-Uk arrives tonight and Keith’s group will be going out for auklets tomorrow. Then, on Sunday, the boat leaves for Attu.

Our trip list is 62.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Temp in the 40s, Overcast, but higher ceiling than recent days, making it brighter, NNE wind 10-15 mph, no rain!

Both wagtails were seen again today. It is unclear whether we have one wandering Eye-browed Thrush or as many as three! One has been seen the past two days up at the Blue Building Feeder at the northwest corner of Clam Lagoon and today one was found hanging around one of the old buildings at Contractors’ Camp Marsh.

Red-necked Grebes moved in last night, with 12 off the Seawall. The tern numbers (Arctic and Aleutian) also jumped overnight with dozens of them coursing over Clam Lagoon and the Seawall.

The fish-processing ship stopped processing yesterday afternoon and all of the pelagics left. A small fishing boat came in late this morning and the processing started up again. But no pelagics showed up today. However, a Pomarine Jaeger joined the feeding frenzy (spotted by Stefan, and later photographed — poorly — by me). Since the ship was a half-mile offshore, I set my camera up and started snapping pictures of the flock of birds, in hopes of picking out something interesting when I downloaded them. It worked. I found a Glaucous Gull in several of the photos. That plus the jaeger brings our trip list up to 60.

Glaucous Gull with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 18, 2017.The tour groups left today, as did the Anchorage/California group and Andrew from the Anchorage group. John Puschok arrived today with three birders in preparation for their Attu trip. Their boat — the Puk-Uk — is expected to arrive tomorrow night, giving the Anchorage group a chance to go out and see the Whiskered (and other) Auklets.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Temp in the 40s, overcast, foggy at times, occasional drizzle, Wind 15-25 NW.

Bramblings have started to show up at the feeders in town, but they seem not to linger. This is in contrast to our previous records of one or two birds finding a feeder and then staying there to feed and roost.

The Bramblings are everywhere. One observer today tallied 166! There are many more. There are records of such fallouts on the Western Aleutians, but this is the first such recorded event for the Central Aleutians. It is very enjoyable.

Brambling, Adak, May 17, 2017

The Rustic Bunting and White Wagtail were seen again today in Sweeper Channel!

Across from the High School Spruces, a Semipalmated Plover was trying to lure us away doing the “broken wing” act.

Semipalmated Plover doing the “broken wing” act, May 17, 2017

The fish processing ship in Kuluk Bay continues to attract large pelagics. Today, in addition to many Laysan Albatross, there were several Black-footed Albatross. But still too far for good photos.

The Bar-tailed Godwits continue on Landing Lights Beach.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Landing Lights Beach, May 17, 2017

At Lake Andrew, we had two Common Loons.

Common Loon, Lake Andrew, May 17, 2017

We learned late today, that there was a Yellow-billed Loon on the eastern side of Lake Andrew (in easy photo distance) since Monday! We had only gotten over there once so far this trip and it was fogged in. Yellow-billed is the one loon we have seen several times out here that has never been within photo range. Aargh!!!

There was a pair of Tufted Ducks on Lake Ronnie and several Black Oystercatchers at several locations. The only other shorebird of note was a Wandering Tattler at Clam Lagoon.

One of the other groups had a Short-eared Owl.

We ended today with a call from Aaron that there were a Herring Gull and a Vega Gull at Clam Lagoon. Vega Gull is an Asian subspecies of Herring Gull. We have seen the Vega variety before, but not the “American” Herring Gull out here.

So we headed up there and got to see the Herring, but the Vega had flown off.

“American” Herring Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2017

Our trip list is 58.

Many of the birders here are leaving tomorrow, but a few are staying until Sunday.

We will miss the extra eyes and ears.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Second time’s the charm, almost…

Temp in the 40s, W wind 10-25 mph, overcast, sporadic rain.

The feeders have still not attracted much, although a few Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches have found a few of them. We added a lot of common — and one not-so-common — Adak migrants today, raising our trip list to 52.

There was nothing unusual at Sweeper Cove or Sweeper Creek. We tried for the Eye-browed Thrush again, but no luck. The Tufted Duck count at the Airport Ponds is up to 3. A quick run around Contractors’ Camp Marsh yielded our first Red-necked Phalarope for the trip.

We spent all morning around town and nearby, checking a lot of places. We planned to go up to Contractor’s Camp Marsh after lunch with Stefan’s group and the guys from Anchorage. It s always better to do such a large area with extra eyes and ears.

We met up with them and while Barb stayed back at the truck, I walked out with the others. At the edge where the drier section met the wetter section, one of the guys spotted the Yellow Wagtails in the marsh. Of course, they disappeared into thicker vegetation before I could catch up to them! However, they soon took flight, and both Barb and I got views of them in the air. They circled around and returned to the same area, but disappeared again as quickly as before. They flew two more times, but Barb and I never got up-close-and-personal views. But, it was good enough for now. No photos…

I plan to try again in the next few days when the wind subsides a bit.

While we were there, we also had a number of Wilson’s and Common snipe, and four Pacific Golden-Plovers.

Pacific Golden-Plovers, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 16, 2017.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon and played leap-frog with Stefan. He got to the Blue Building Feeder before us and found the Eye-browed Thrush there. Of course, it flew away before we got there! So another miss.

Along the northern shore of Clam Lagoon, a gray Gyrfalcon flew by us headed for Stefan. We called him and his group also saw it.

At the northeastern corner, there was a feeding frenzy going on.

Glaucous-winged Gull feeding frenzy, Clam Lagoon, May 16, 2017.

We saw the usual suspects along the Seawall and east side of Clam Lagoon.

We had one Bar-tailed Godwit at Clam Lagoon and saw 16 others down on Landing Lights Beach.

It was getting late, so we headed back to town. By the way, we have been running into several flocks of Bramblings up and down Bayshore Drive, as far north as Contactors’ Camp Marsh. However, they have been very flighty and haven’t hung around for photo-ops.

We checked the Seal drive feeder — nothing — and as we drove out of that area, Barb drove up one of the nearby loops that has a spruce tree at one of the abandoned houses. We didn’t see anything there, but as we rounded the bend, a flock of Bramblings flew out. This time however — maybe it was the pouring rain — they were a little more cooperative.

Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

11 of the 30+ Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

Brambling bathing (in the rain no less!), Adak, May 16, 2017.

See? We weren’t making this up!

In addition to the 52 species we have seen so far, the other groups have also had Eye-browed Thrush, Peregrine Falcon, Common Redpoll, Black Oystercatcher, and maybe a few others.

The winds are supposed to switch back to a more northerly direction the next few days. Not the best scenario.

Regardless, we will be out there looking…

Monday, May 15, 2017

You win some, you lose some.

Temp in the 40s, overcast, rain and drizzle much of the day, some sun late in the day, Wind 15-30, NW.

We started out on our usual routine of checking feeders, Sweeper Cove and Channel.

We had just put out seed yesterday, so except for Rosy-Finch and Snow Bunting at the Sandy Cove Bluffs feeder, there was no action. At Sweeper Cove, we had our first Ancient Murrelet of the trip.

As we were driving up Bayshore Drive, we spotted the Brambling flock — but again, non-cooperative. We then got a call from Stefan that he had found an Eye-browed Thrush at the High School Spruces. We (and the other groups nearby) headed over there. The bird was not being terribly cooperative, and since we have seen them previously on Adak, we headed out to look for other stuff while the other groups tried to get better looks at the thrush. They eventually all got satisfactory views. We tried later in the day, but did not see it.

There is a fish-processing ship anchored in Kuluk Bay and it has attracted Laysan Albatross and Fulmars. These birds are coming in much closer to shore than normal, providing nice views through a scope, but not very good photos. I took some anyway…

Three Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gull, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gull, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

We headed north. At the Navfac Creek overlook, there was a flock of 150+ Black Scoters.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon. The tide was in as we started around, so we headed over to the Seawall. There, we had 5 Pacific Loons, a Red-necked Grebe, and the usual sea ducks and cormorants.

We came back around Clam Lagoon. The tide was starting to recede and one Bar-tailed Godwit was feeding on the flats. As we were leaving the lagoon, we ran into Stefan who told us they had 14 godwits down on Navfac Creek Beach. He also told us Aaron had been trying to reach us because he had found two — not one, but TWO! — Yellow Wagtails at Contractor’s Camp Marsh! Our nemesis birds on Adak are wagtails. Both yellow and white have occurred on the island while we have been here, but we have always missed them.

So, although the birds had been seen several hours ago — and passerines tend not to stick around Adak unless at a feeder — we headed down to the marsh to look for them. By this time the wind had increased to 25-30 MPH and it was drizzling. We drove and walked around the area where they had been seen, but no luck.

So we continued south, tried briefly for the thrush, and then did Sweeper Creek and Channel. We drove up the channel, watching and listening to the resident Rock Sandpipers. At the place where the road ends,we stopped as usual and scanned the streamsides. No sooner had we stopped than Barb yelled “White Wagtail!”

Sure enough, a White Wagtail was actively feeding across the creek along the edge of the vegetation. So we didn’t get the Yellows, but this was nice compensation. We quickly called the other groups and they all started heading our way.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

As I was taking photos of the wagtail, I turned away for a second and lost sight of him. I put up my binos and scanned the streamside and spotted a little-brown-job with a distinctively-marked head pattern. I said to myself, “I’ve never seen one of those before!” and quickly alerted Barb to it as I started taking photos of this new bird. It turned out to be a Rustic Bunting. Readers of our previous blogs may remember that we had a Rustic Bunting in September 2014. However, that was a fall-plumaged bird, not striking like this guy. Also, that sighting lasted ten seconds at most and afforded no photo opportunity.

This was  MUCH nicer.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

The wagtail and bunting worked their way down the channel towards Sweeper Cove. By the time the other birders arrived, the wagtail was gone, but the bunting was still visible. Most of them got good views, but the bird was very active and was hard to pin down. As they were watching the bunting, I walked down to the Sweeper Estuary (as I call it), and there was the wagtail. I radioed the others, and they came down and many of them saw it before it took off, heading towards the airport. We found out later that Stefan and his group — who were out of range when we found these birds — later found the wagtail in the estuary. But not the bunting.

Although we had seen White Wagtails in Europe last year, this was a North American bird for us. And the Bunting was certainly a more enjoyable sighting than our first one. The nice looks at albatrosses was also very rewarding.

Not a bad day.

So…

So far, there have been 5 species of Asian passerines. Unheard of! Two or three is what we usually expect. There had been very strong southwest winds for several days before our arrival, and we suspect that is what brought all of these birds here. Who knows what else lurks out there as I write this…

I mentioned yesterday that there were 18 birders out here. That might be a record. In any case, there’s High Lonesome, led by Stefan, with Joe and Susan; Wilderness, led by Aaron, with Kris, Steve, Luann, and Mike; 4 from Anchorage, Keith, Eric, Enric, and Andrew; and a group of 6 from Anchorage and California, Sue, Frank, Mark, Janet, and Susan — yes, there are three Sues!

Some of them are only staying until Thursday.  They certainly lucked out on the right week so far.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

We started this trip on a bad note. Our limo driver overslept! Instead of picking us up at 2:45 am, he didn’t arrive until 3:30. With many apologies, he put the pedal-to-the-metal and got us to the airport at 4:30 for a 5 am flight. Fortunately, we had TSA PreCheck, so we sailed through security and arrived at the gate just as the last passengers were boarding. Whew!

We got to Chicago on time and the flight from there to Anchorage arrived a little early. We got the car, checked in at the motel and headed out to shop. On the way, we stopped at Spenard Crossing, having heard that a pair of Redheads were there. That would be a state bird for us. We got them.

Redhead, Spenard Crossing, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Also there, Barb spied a Mew Gull nesting 20 feet up in a spruce tree! We still are not accustomed to seeing gulls and shorebirds up in trees…

Mew Gull on nest, Spenard Crossing, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

We got our shopping done, got supper, and crashed for the night.

Sunday morning, we headed up to Arctic Valley (as usual). Keith Confer, an Anchorage resident — a birder going out to Adak — had scouted the area out for Willow Ptarmigan — one of our nemesis birds. He had heard some up there and some friends of his had flushed some in recent days. So I walked up the trail and played the call and got a response! The bird was calling from a willow thicket that I could not get very near, as there were several inches of fresh snow and walking off-trail was treacherous. The bird did not call again and did not show itself. So my sum experience with Willow Ptarmigans at this point is finding feathers a couple of trips back and now hearing one. So I guess that makes it two-thirds of a lifer…

Although we didn’t see the ptarmigan, we did see a few of the regular species up there.

A very angry-looking Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Golden-crowned Sparrow, , Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

A fairly cooperative Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

And plenty of Robins.

American Robin, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Robins are plentiful in Anchorage, but I just hadn’t taken the time to photograph one before.

We also saw several Snowshoe Hares — already in their summer coats.

Snowshoe Hare, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

We birded several other locations. There was a pair of Greater White-fronted Geese at Potter’s Marsh — a new Alaska Mainland bird for us — and finally ended up at Lake Hood. There we found a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes and the friendly Red-throated Loon was back.

Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Lake Hood, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Red-throated Loon, Lake Hood, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

On to Adak. Our flight left about a half-hour late.

We arrived, got to our house, and started unpacking. We go a call from Aaron Lang that there was a flock of about 30 Brambling up near where Isaac used to live! We had never seen more than one or two Brambling at a time out here and the maximum we had ever seen during our two-week stays was about six!

We finished unpacking, loaded up the truck with our birding gear and headed out. We set birdseed out at several of the usual locations. We had a pair of Tufted Ducks on the Airport Ponds. We did a quick run up to Clam Lagoon and Shotgun Lake. We didn’t see anything obviously different, so we headed back down to look for the Bramblings.

As we dove through the area, Stefan, from Hi-Lonesome Bird Tours was also looking. He went one way, we another. He called us shortly after we split up to say he had found them. We went to his location and watched as a large flock of Bramblings worked their way up the roadside and finally disappeared up a hillside. I was unable to get photos, as they stayed just far enough ahead and kept moving. Maybe tomorrow. It was still pretty exciting.

There are 18 other birders here besides us. Lots of eyes and ears!

It is midnight here so I am signing off and will fill you in with the details of the other groups here tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, occasional light shower, Wind WNW 15-25 mph

No new birds to end the trip.

We searched for the Eurasian Sparrowhawk some more, but did not find it.

You can see some more details on the sighting at http://franklinhaas.com/EUSP/EUSP.html

Here is the mushroom that I mentioned last week. It appears to be Volvariella speciosa. I now have encountered all of two species of mushrooms on Adak. New slogan — Adak: Not a mycologist’s paradise!

Volvariella speciosa, Adak, September 13, 2016.

Volvariella speciosa, Adak, September 13, 2016.

Our flights home were uneventful until we got to the Philadelphia Airport. At baggage claim, one of our bags showed up on the carousel, but then it stopped. It turned out that there was some mechanical problem with the conveyor belts down below. It took over an hour before the rest of our luggage appeared!

The trip was a great trip.

It started out with great looks (and numbers) of Short-tailed Shearwaters, a Red-throated Loon for our Adak list and a rare (for Adak) Red Knot.

The second week started off in the doldrums, but finished with a bang — a first confirmed North American record of Eurasian Sparrowhawk! Note: John Puschock had a Eurasian Sparrowhawk on Adak a few years ago, but was unable to get diagnostic photos.

Our triplist was only 52 — 2 below our average, with no Asian passerines and few shorebirds.

We will return in May.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, Wind W 15-25 mph

We checked the feeders and Sweeper Cove. Nothing new. The high tide made Sweeper Creek shorebird-unfriendly.

So we checked the High School Willows (nothing) and then the High School Spruces. As I scanned the trees, I saw a gray shape that wasn’t there previously! I got the scope on it and discovered an accipiter. The bold facial pattern led us to believe it was a Northern Goshawk! But, after posting the photos to the IDFrontiers listserve, it was pointed out to us that it was a female Eurasian Sparrowhawk (which looks like a small Goshawk)! This should be the first accepted North American record!!!!! (John Puschock had one a few years ago, but it was not accepted by the Alaska Records Committee and there were at least two sight records from Attu.)

Northern Goshawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

Northern Goshawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

For more details about this sighting, go to http://www.franklinhaas.com/eusp/eusp.html

Not a bad bird for our penultimate day!

We checked every tree we could find today, hoping it would be perched in one of them, but no luck.

Speaking of raptors, you can never have too many photos of Peregrines. This one was circling me at Clam Lagoon today — I guess he couldn’t find any shorebirds to catch.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, September 21, 2016

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, September 21, 2016

At the Seawall, we had a flock of 30 Ruddy Turnstones. No other shorebirds today.

Also, at the Seawall, I spotted an albatross way out, but could not determine the species.

Our trip list is now 52.

We leave tomorrow around 6 pm and expect to arrive home late Friday afternoon.

I will post our wrap-up blog on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, no rain until late afternoon, Wind W 20-30 mph

There were new birds on the island today, just not new birds for our trip list!

We did not see any shearwaters in Kuluk Bay today and at the Seawall, they were few and far out.

Also at the Seawall, the number of Red-necked Grebes jumped to 15 from 7. No loons today.

Near the Palisades Overlook, we came upon a lone Cackling Goose sitting in the middle of the road. It flew off to the side when it saw us.

Cackling Goose, Palisades Overlook, September 20, 2016

Cackling Goose, Palisades Overlook, September 20, 2016

After the last two September trips where we found good birds (Wood Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler) at Warbler Willows, we now check that location twice-a-day. So far, to no avail…

If there are any Asian birds that blew onto the island the last two days, we haven’t found them yet.

PS: They got the gas pumps fixed.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, very occasional sprinkle, wind WSW 15-30 mph

No new birds today.

The only shorebirds today were a pair of Western Sandpipers at Clam Lagoon. The pair of Pacific Loons are still at the Seawall.

There was a large flock of waterfowl on Shotgun Lake today, including about 50 Northern Pintails, 15 Mallards, and 4 Eurasian Wigeon.

The most interesting event of the day was a Steller’s Sea Lion off the Seawall that attracted a flock of gulls. You can see why in the pictures below.

Steller's Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller’s Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller's Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller’s Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller's Sea Lion with fish (this is what all the fuss was about!), Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller’s Sea Lion with fish (this is what all the fuss was about!), Seawall, September 19, 2016

The tides out here are an enigma. For instance, since we got here, the tide has been low in the morning and high in the afternoon. Then, this past Saturday there was this very low tide in the afternoon! Since then, the tide has been high 24-hours a day! This is not unusual, we have experienced such odd tide schedules here on past trips. In fact we have experienced a week or more of consistent high tide and vice versa!

I decided to do some research on this and found a great visual tide chart at http://www.tide-forecast.com/locations/Adak-Bight-Adak-Island-Alaska/tides/latest

It turns out that the tide isn’t high all of the time — it just looks that way. The tide is currently in the following pattern — very low tide in the middle of the night (when — foolish us! — we’re sleeping), then a normal high tide, then only a very small dip to low tide, then high tide, and then a big drop to low tide in the middle of the next night. So during the day, it looks like high tide all of the time! Now, why it doesn’t go to a normal low tide during the day, we don’t understand. We think it might have something to do with the interactions between the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea, but we could be way off base. I guess we need a tide expert…

By dawn tomorrow, there will have been more than 24 hours of west winds (strong west winds). If they brought any good birds in today, we didn’t see them. Maybe tomorrow…

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rain, rain, rain…

Temp in the 50s, rain all day, overcast, wind S 30-40 mph

It has rained all day today and the wind was a steady gale. Although the clouds lightened a bit an hour ago (it is now 8:30 pm), it quickly clouded in again and there is a fine drizzle now.

It is supposed to clear overnight and be sunny tomorrow, with WSW winds.

In spite of this, we added a bird today — Pacific Loon. There were two at the Seawall. Unlike all of the other loons we have seen this trip, these still had much of their breeding plumage.

We had two more Emperor Geese on Clam Lagoon and one Parasitic Jaeger.

We had NO identifiable shorebirds today — this may be a first! We saw a couple flying by the Seawall far out, but could not tell what they were.

The shearwaters continue to fly by at a great distance, but a few still come within binocular range. We even saw a few from Candlestick Bridge. Still no other pelagics.

At the north end of Clam Lagoon, the south winds were casting a lot of stuff on the shoreline, to the delight of the gulls. We saw gulls dining on a crab, a starfish, and some sort of other crustacean.

The conditions today did not lend themselves to photography!

When we went to get gas yesterday afternoon, there was a sign that said “Out of Order — we are trying to fix it as fast as we can.” The notice was dated the day before. It is still not fixed, but we expect whatever parts were needed arrived on the flight from Anchorage this afternoon. We found someone with gas reserves to lend us, so we are not stranded yet

Speaking of the plane…

The weather here when the plane was due to arrive was rainy, very windy, and fogged in. We were not sure it was going to land. We were out at the Kuluk Bay Overlook when the plane was due. At the very last minute, it appeared out of the fog and touched down. Thank heavens for instrument landing technology! A few years ago, the plane would not even have left Anchorage with these weather conditions.

The triplist is 50.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Temp in the 50s, Partly sunny, scattered drizzle late in the PM, Wind SW 15-30 mph

No new birds today. In all of our trips up here there are always a few days — usually in the middle — when we don’t get anything new. This is that stretch of days. We are hoping that the westerly winds that started yesterday will blow something in.

At Clam Lagoon today, we had 5 Sanderlings, 2 Western Sandpipers, 6 Pectoral Sandpipers, and 1 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Its amazing how little effect the strong winds have on these little birds feeding on an open mudflat. I was hard-pressed to keep upright!

Western Sandpiper (front) and Sanderling, Clam Lagoon, September 17, 2016

Western Sandpiper (front) and Sanderling, Clam Lagoon, September 17, 2016

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, September 17, 2016

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, September 17, 2016

At the Seawall, we had three Ruddy Turnstones and one Rock Sandpiper.

Ruddy Turnstone, Seawall, September 17, 2016

Ruddy Turnstone, Seawall, September 17, 2016

Again, there were shearwaters well withing binocular range. And again, we spent some time scanning for other pelagics, to no avail!

We saw at least two — maybe three — Peregrines today.

Come on, west winds!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, wind NW 10-15 mph

Except for a brief shower at dawn — which created the following rainbow — this was the most precipitation-free day so far.

Rainbow, Adak, September 16, 2016

Rainbow, Adak, September 16, 2016

Note: this satisfies the annual rainbow photograph quota for 2016.

At Sweeper Cove, two Emperor Geese flew over — apparently not the ones we saw the other day, as there was no juvenile with them.

At Sweeper Channel, there were a couple of cooperative wigeon.

Two Eurasian Wigeon and a Common Teal, Sweeper Channel, September 16, 2016

Two Eurasian Wigeon and a Common Teal, Sweeper Channel, September 16, 2016

The number of Eurasian Wigeon are slowly increasing this trip, but have not yet exploded like last September’s trip, when the number tripled overnight.

At Clam Lagoon, there were two Western Sandpipers and two Sanderlings out on the flats.

Two Western Sandpipers (left) and two Sanderlings, Clam Lagoon, September 16, 2016

Two Western Sandpipers (left) and two Sanderlings, Clam Lagoon, September 16, 2016

At the Seawall, the shearwaters were mostly far out, with an occasional few coming within binocular range. With good viewing conditions, we spent a lot of time scanning the birds at the horizon, looking for albatrosses. No luck!

At Lake Shirley, the Peregrine made another appearance, this time sitting for a while.

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Shirley, September 16, 2016

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Shirley, September 16, 2016

No new birds today.

The trip list remains at 49.

PS: When we mention that this or that bird has not been seen by us the last few trips, etc., keep in mind that we are on the island only two weeks in May and two weeks in September each year. That leaves eleven months with no birders out here recording the birdlife. It was different when Isaac lived here for five years, but not now. So we are just recording a glimpse of the birdlife on Adak each trip.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional rain/drizzle, wind N 10-20 mph

This morning there were still a few shearwaters close to shore in Kuluk Bay. We have never before had so many consecutive days with shearwaters being close like this. Although the majority of the shearwaters are passing by farther out, there is still a smattering of birds venturing in closer. This has been a real treat. Still no other pelagics, however…

At Sweeper Cove, there was a Black Oystercatcher (one of 5 we saw today).

We decided to make our obligatory drive up to White Alice (a promontory west of town on which the cell towers are located and affords a view of Shagak Bay on the west side of the island). We frequently see Snow Buntings up there, but not today. However, there was a family (families?) of Ravens cavorting in the wind.

Common Raven, White Alice, September 15, 2016

Common Raven, White Alice, September 15, 2016

On the way back down, Barb spotted a Gyrfalcon which went by too fast for me to get photos.

At the Palisades Overlook, there was a feeding frenzy of gulls and kittiwakes. While scanning through them, I found a Parasitic Jaeger. This jaeger had some pale coloration on the belly, unlike 99% of the jaegers up here which are normally dark.

At Clam Lagoon, it was raining again, so I did not walk out the peninsula. However, we spotted the Sanderling flock out on the flats. It had grown to 15 birds.

At the Seawall, Barb saw an Arctic Loon. The grebes were still there. There was another feeding frenzy which, this time, was joined by 2 or 3 more Parasitic Jaegers.

At Candlestick Bridge, we again saw the whale for four surfacings of one-second each! Based on the size and dorsal fin, it was likely a Minke.

At Lake Shirley, a Peregrine Falcon made an appearance.

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Shirley, September 15, 2016

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Shirley, September 15, 2016

When we got back to the other side of the lagoon, I walked out the peninsula. The Red Knot was not there. No where any other shorebirds either. I walked down the marsh edge and had only two Pectoral Sandpipers and a Long-billed Dowitcher, none of which hung around long enough to be photographed.

Our triplist is 49.

One week down, one to go.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional rain/drizzle, Wind NW 10-15 mph

Kuluk Bay off Sweeper Cove was like a sheet of glass this morning — a strong contrast to the rough seas since we arrived. There were a lot of birds (but most far out), including still a few shearwaters.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches and Song Sparrows have found our various feeders, so activity is picking up — just waiting for an Asian passerine to stop by.

We headed up to Contractors Camp Marsh, where I walked a portion of it while Barb drove around. We flushed many Pectoral/Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and at least one Snipe (Wilson’s until proven otherwise).

As I was out walking, Barb found two Long-billed Dowitchers.

Long-billed Dowitchers, Contractors Camp Marsh, September 14, 2016

Long-billed Dowitchers, Contractors Camp Marsh, September 14, 2016

We then checked Warbler Willows — no luck — and headed to Adak National forest to stop for lunch and see if any funny-looking birds might pop out of the trees. No funny-looking ones did, but a curious Song Sparrow had to check out our truck.

Song Sparrow on hood of truck, Adak National Forest, September 14, 2016

Song Sparrow on hood of truck, Adak National Forest, September 14, 2016

There are a lot of young Song Sparrows (and young every other species) around this time of year, but the young Song Sparrows always seem extra curious and tame.

The Red Knot is still out on the Clam Lagoon Peninsula.

At the East Side Ponds, a pair of Pacific Golden-Plovers few in front of us and landed on an island in the middle.

Pacific Golden-Plover, East Side Ponds, September 14, 2016

Pacific Golden-Plover, East Side Ponds, September 14, 2016

The water was relatively calm at the Seawall and we saw 7 Red-necked Grebes and 5 Horned Grebes — no loons today. There were 5 Black Oystercatchers on Goose Rocks. Only a few shearwaters were seen passing by.

At Candlestick Bridge, we saw the back and dorsal fin of a cetacean. It showed that much of itself three times (one second each) and then disappeared. This has been our experience with most whales and dolphins up here. They do not linger and certainly don’t stay at the surface for more than a second. All of those videos that you see on television nature specials, where the whales or dolphins are swimming along the surface, frequently breeching, etc…. ALL LIES!

Back at the Seawall, we found a lone Western Sandpiper.

Western Sandpiper, Seawall, September 14, 2016

Western Sandpiper, Seawall, September 14, 2016

We returned to Contractors Camp Marsh to look for more shorebirds. In the area where we had the dowitchers, there was a flock of Common Teal and Northern Pintails. The pintails were stretching up there necks and picking off bugs. I wanted to get a photo of that behavior, but by the time I got into position, they decided to tuck their heads in and take a post-prandial nap!

We saw more Pectorals, etc., but no new species.

We did a late-afternoon check of Sweeper Cove and were surprised by a flock of 18 Cackling Geese flying over. Although not rare, this is only the second of our nine September trips that we have seen them (we almost always get them on our May trips).

Our triplist is 48.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional light rain/drizzle (the “occasions” being when we stop and get out of the truck!), wind S 10-15 mph.

Not much new birdwise today.

We added Black Oystercatcher to the trip list.

The Red Knot is still here and the Sanderling flock has increased to 11. Also, we had an immature Peregrine Falcon today.

Our one incident today happened near the Seawall. There is some old chainlink fencing here and there, often topped with barbed wire. Such exists at the south end of the Seawall. As we were parked there, Barb glanced at the nearby fencing and saw a longspur hanging from the top wire — and fluttering.

I went over and saw that it had gotten its foot caught in one of the barbed wire barbs. The fence was too high for me to reach, so Barb pulled the truck next to it and I climbed on the bed to reach it. Its foot was already mangled and bloody, but I managed to pull it out and the bird flew away.

Longspurs sure have sharp beaks!

Lapland Longspur caught in barbed wire, September 13, 2016

Lapland Longspur caught in barbed wire, September 13, 2016

When we went down to Finger Creek the other day, before turning down the switchback to get to the road next to the creek, I walked over to the bluff that overlooks the creek to see if the road had cleared from the flooding of the past few days. It had, but as I looked down, I was surprised to not see salmon in the creek. This creek is usually brimming with salmon this time of year.

However, when we drove down to creekside, I could see why I had that impression. The stream was full of salmon, but unlike previous years, the water was still so high that their dorsal fins and backs were not sticking out of the water! The water has normally been so low that you see hundreds of salmon backs and fins all across the creek!

Barb photographed the Salmon eggs (roe) in the stream.

Salmon eggs, Finger Creek, September 12, 2016

Salmon eggs, Finger Creek, September 12, 2016

I found a new mushroom today and am working on its Identification (with the assistance of Kitty LaBounty). I will post it once she IDs it.

Our triplist is 43.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Temp in the low 50s, partly cloudy in the AM, overcast and light rain in the PM, Wind SSE 10-20 mph

At Sweeper Cove this morning, we found three Emperor Geese — two adult and one juvenile. We had never seen a juvenile before, so this was a semi-lifer. Also, we hadn’t seen any Emperor Geese since September 2014, so it was nice to find some again.

Emperor Geese, Sweeper Cove, September 12, 2016

Emperor Geese, Sweeper Cove, September 12, 2016

Emperor Geese, Sweeper Cove, September 12, 2016

Emperor Geese, Sweeper Cove, September 12, 2016

We went around Sweeper Cove and headed up Bayshore. Nothing new, but there was more variety in the bay now that the sea had settled down.

At the Landing Lights, I found a dead juvenile Tufted Puffin.

Juvenile Tufted Puffin, Landing Lights, September 12, 2016

Juvenile Tufted Puffin, Landing Lights, September 12, 2016

We checked Warbler Willows and Lake Jean. Nothing new.

At the Palisades Overlook, there was a lot of activity in the bay — mostly kittiwakes and gulls.

At Clam Lagoon, I walked out the peninsula and the Red Knot was still there. But it had no companions.

Red Knot, Clam Lagoon, September 12, 2016

Red Knot, Clam Lagoon, September 12, 2016

We drove out to the Loran Station and had a nice view, but no pelagics. On the way back we had another Peregrine Falcon.

At the Seawall, Barb spotted a loon which we quickly identified as a Red-throated. This was exciting, as this is the last loon species we needed for our Adak list! Soon after, a second one joined the first. Unfortunately, the waves were still too high and the birds too distant for me to get a photo. Maybe they will hang around…

Some Ruddy Turnstones fly by and we saw a couple of Marbled Murrelets and two Horned Grebes.

There were still Short-tailed Shearwaters flying close to shore. Still no other pelagics.

From the east shore of Clam Lagoon, we spotted some shorebirds way out on the edge of the flats. They were the Red Knot and nine Sanderlings. Like the geese, we hadn’t seen any Sanderlings out here since September 2014.

Returning to the Seawall, we found two Arctic Loons! As we left the Seawall, a Peregine flew by. All three of our Peregrine sightings have been adults, so we don’t know if it is one bird or three.

Our trip list is 42.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lifer? Knot!

Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, a little drizzle in the AM, Winds N 15-20 mph

With the improving weather, we headed up to Clam Lagoon to get the morning low tide.

We didn’t see anything new on the open flats, so went to the Peninsula. I walked out and around the second bend, spotted a medium-sized shorebird. I was unable to identify it and started taking photos. It kept moving out towards the end of the spit, where it was joined by a Western Sandpiper.

Both birds allowed close approach and I was able to get definitive photos of both. However, when I got back to the truck and compared the larger bird to the field guides, we were stumped. It didn’t quite match anything we could find.

Well,when we returned to the house later and sent photos to John Puschock and Isaac Helmericks (our go-to guys), they quickly responded that it was a juvenile Red Knot.

Somehow, we had gotten it into our brains that Red Knots had shorter bills than this, so we discounted it out-of-hand when paging through the field guide! It has been awhile since we have seen a knot.

So, no lifer, but at least a new Adak bird for us. This may be only the 5th or 6th record for Adak.

Red Knot, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Red Knot, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Red Knot and Red-necked Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Red Knot and Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Red-necked Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

After seeing the knot, I walked the marsh edge and found two Pectoral and one Sharp-tailed sandpipers.

We continued around the lagoon to the Seawall, where we saw more shearwaters, but not nearly as many or as close as the previous two days.

When we got back around to the west side, I walked out the peninsula again and found the Red Knot and stint, but they flew off. As they flew away, they were joined by five other small shorebirds. I decided to just wait awhile and, sure enough, two of the peeps returned to the shoreline near me. They were Western Sandpipers.

Western Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Western Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

At the Adak National Forest, we had a “live” Pacific Wren.

Pacific Wren, Adak National Forest, September 11, 2016

Pacific Wren, Adak National Forest, September 11, 2016

We were able to drive around Contractors Camp Marsh today, but did not find anything new. However, nearby we found our first Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch for the trip!

Next, we headed down to Finger Bay. The road along the creek that was flooded yesterday was now relatively clear, although several salmon were stranded in the larger puddles in the road. We didn’t see anything new there, but on the way back, we had a Peregrine Falcon near Sweeper Cove.

Our trip list is now at a more respectable 36.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Temp in the upper 40s, overcast, rain, NE wind 30-50 mph.

At Sweeper Cove this morning, we still saw a shearwater or two, plus there were more birds generally — puffins, guillemots, etc.

In Kuluk Bay, off Navfac Creek, we saw a pair of White-winged Scoters.

By mid-morning we hadn’t found anything else new and headed back to the house for a pit stop. A hunter (Nick), who we met on the plane, was next door, and mentioned that near the hut that he and his son had camped in the night before (near Finger Bay), was a large tub with several drowned green birds! Well, that certainly peaked our interest!

So we headed down there. We found the hut and the large plastic tub with three drowned birds in it. The sides of the tub were too slippery for the birds to climb out, so once they flew in (for what purpose, we aren’t sure) they simply could not escape and finally succumbed.

They weren’t green, but the algae growing on them was…

There were two Pacific Wrens and a Song Sparrow.

Drowned Song Sparrow and Pacific Wren, Near Finger Bay, September 10, 2016.

Drowned Song Sparrow and Pacific Wren, Near Finger Bay, September 10, 2016.

Drowned Pacific Wren, Near Finger Bay, September 10, 2016.

Drowned Pacific Wren, Near Finger Bay, September 10, 2016.

To prevent any more fatalities, I threw a couple of small boards into the water to give any future drop-ins some purchase for flying out.

At Finger Bay, we finally saw a couple of Pelagic Cormorants and a few Harlequin Ducks. They DO exist!

We headed back north.

We were going to drive through Contractors Camp Marsh, but the heavy rain has flooded many of the roads. Although they were covered by only a few inches of water in most places, there is so much debris that flies around there (boards with nails, metal roofing, etc.) that unless you can see the road surface, it is unwise to drive there. So we continued north.

At the Seawall, there were very few shearwaters visible and the surf was pounding. The tide was so high and the waves so large that Goose Rocks were only visible briefly every few minutes!

We had a Greater Scaup at Lake Shirley.

On the eastern side of the lagoon flats, we spotted two shorebirds — one large and one small — way out. They were too far for pictures and the 40 mph wind and rain made the photographic conditions even worse. However, I had to try to get close enough to them to identify them, so I climbed down the embankment and started wading out towards the birds. I got a couple of distant photos before they took off. Here is the best one.

Mystery shorebirds, Clam Lagoon, September 10, 2016.

Mystery shorebirds, Clam Lagoon, September 10, 2016.

We don’t know what they were. We thought they might be yesterday’s Greenshank and a Dunlin. We sent the photo to some better birders and they also were unsure, but they suggested the larger bird might be a godwit. However, godwits are rare on Adak in the fall. Maybe tomorrow’s weather — less rain — will enable us to find them in more ideal viewing conditions.

Down at Candlestick Bridge, Barb saw some shorebirds fly along the edge of the beach and disappear around the bend, so I walked down there and found a dozen Rock Sandpipers and one Ruddy Turnstone.

Rock Sandpiper, Candlestick Bridge, September 10, 2016.

Rock Sandpiper, Candlestick Bridge, September 10, 2016.

We went back around the lagoon and I walked out the Peninsula (in driving wind and rain), in hopes that the mystery shorebirds had taken shelter in the lee.

No such luck.

We headed back to the house and called it a day.

The triplist is up to 27.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Shearwaters redux…

Temps in the high 40s, overcast, rain, east wind 15-30 mph

Although we have experienced more days with rain than without on our trips to Adak, we have only had a few where it rained all day and night. This is one of those.

It started raining last night and is not expected to stop until tomorrow night. This has been a steady rain — no letup — although the intensity has varied. And the wind is relentless.

We were excited yesterday at the close shearwaters up at the Seawall. Well, today was even more exciting, as the shearwaters were in Kuluk Bay by the thousands and flying by the Kuluk Bay Overlook at (relatively) close range. We have had them in Kuluk Bay on east winds before, but usually for an hour or so in the morning and then they moved out to sea. Today, they were in the bay all day. We even had a couple fly briefly into Sweeper Cove.

We watched them for some time, looking for other pelagic species, but found none!

Here are a few more shearwater photos.

Short-tailed Shearwaters, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwaters, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Note the legs sticking out beyond the “short tail.”

So we headed up to Clam Lagoon. I spotted a medium-sized, gray and white shorebird feeding near a flock of Common Teal. The distance and weather conditions made it difficult to determine what it was, so I clambered down to the mudflats to get a closer look, while Barb kept tabs on it from the truck.

No sooner had I started walking towards it, than the teal all took flight, as did the shorebird. Barb was able to see the distinctive flight pattern of a Common Greenshank. It landed way out in the middle of the flats, but then took off again and flew out of view (so no photos).

There were 6 Parasitic Jaegers still hanging around. They usually leave here by mid-September.

We continued around the lagoon and as we approached the East Side Ponds, a shorebird flew up and away. Our impression was the Greenshank.

The Seawall had its share of Shearwaters, but farther out than yesterday.

There was a flock of Northern Pintails on Lake Shirley.

We headed back down to the Kuluk Bay Overlook to watch the shearwaters some more. As I was scanning through them, a flock of shorebirds came into view. They were Red Phalaropes.

Red Phalaropes (and a Glaucous-winged Gull), Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016.

Red Phalaropes (and a Black-legged Kittiwake), Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016.

We had just seen our first Adak Red Phalarope this past May (a lone bird). We new that they migrated past Adak regularly, but are seldom seen from land here. So this was a treat.

The weather has been so bad that we haven’t even seen Harlequin Ducks, Cormorants, of Rosy-finches! Our meager trip list is all of 18!

The rain is supposed to start diminishing tomorrow night and the winds shift back to northwest.

There are probably some good birds hunkered down on the island right now, so we hope better weather will allow us to find them.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mostly cloudy, temp in the low 50s, moderate (and increasing) east wind.

We arrived in Anchorage yesterday after an uneventful day of travel.

This morning, we did some usual birding around Anchorage.

We added one new mammal to our Alaska list — Red Squirrel.

Red Squirrel, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

Red Squirrel, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

We also added Steller’s Jay.

Steller's Jays, West Chester Lagoon, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

Steller’s Jays, West Chester Lagoon, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

At Potters marsh, a kingfisher posed for us.

Belted Kingfisher, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

Belted Kingfisher, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

And at West Chester Lagoon, Barb spotted a cooperative Gadwall for me to photograph.

Gadwall, West Chester Lagoon, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

Gadwall, West Chester Lagoon, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

Barb also spotted a Rusty Blackbird while I was around the bend. We could not relocate it when I got back to her.

Shortly thereafter, a Merlin flew in and soon a flock of half-a-dozen magpies and several Steller’s Jays were involved — chasing and being chased through the treeline. This was still going on 20 minutes later as we left.

At Ship Creek, we saw some interesting behavior by a Magpie. It was down at the water’s edge, constantly chattering, and poking at and picking up various objects. At one point, it picked up an egg-shaped pebble (about 3/4 inch) and placed it into a crevice in a small log laying by the streamside. It then picked up a small twig (about 3 to 4 inches long) and placed it in the same crevice on top of the pebble. It then went over to the water, picked up another pebble, but dropped it in the water. It then fished out of the water a small wad of algae and laid it on the log it was standing on. It tried to pick up some more pebbles out of the water, but dropped all of them. It then pick up the algae and dropped it back into the water. All the while, chattering…

We have no idea what this was all about…

We arrived on Adak a little early, got unpacked and headed up to Clam Lagoon. We didn’t see any shorebirds or other birds out of the ordinary, so we drove around to the Seawall. As mentioned above, there were east winds. Usually on east winds, we can see the shearwaters and albatrosses flying by — although still pretty far out. However, as soon as we stopped and started scanning, we spotted shearwaters flying between us and Goose Rocks! Only once before had we seen them this close, and then it was only one bird.

Now there were a few dozen flying around and sitting on the water. There were many more flying by at a distance, but the closer ones were a treat.

Short-tailed Shearwaters, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwaters, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

This was the best view we had ever had of shearwaters from terra firma!

Barb had a glimpse of a small gull with a black hood, but it flew away before we could identify it. We hope it reappears.

It is 10:30 here. I am going to bed…

Europe — Wednesday, June 29, 2016 and Wrap-up

We didn’t add any new birds on our final day, although Frank got to see a Yellowhammer, which Barb had seen earlier in the trip. Also, we added one bird after-the-fact from photos – Western Bonelli’s Warbler. We birded areas where we had started the trip two weeks ago, hoping a morning outing would be more productive – it wasn’t.

We got to the airport early. We usually request a wheelchair for Barb at airports, but she thought the Zurich Airport was small enough that she wouldn’t need one. We found out otherwise when we arrived.

So for our departure, we asked for assistance. The check-in attendant directed us to a waiting area to request a wheelchair. We pushed the button and the voice on the other end said to wait there and some one would be there shortly. Well, 40 minutes later(!!) a guy shows up with a motorized cart. We get in and after several elevators and concourses, we arrive at the security checkpoint. We get through that and then go on another elevator, down another concourse, another elevator and arrive at a garage with vans. We transferred to a van and then were driven out to the international terminal. Then another elevator, a wheelchair, another concourse to our destination! It was like something out of a Monty Python movie…

The flight home was uneventful and on time, as was our limo drive home.

Here are some scenery photos, comments, and observations about our trip.

Above Treeline

Above Treeline

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

View from the cable car looking back up at Gemmi.

View from the cable car looking back up at Gemmi.

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

One of the brief views we got from Gemmi, looking for Lammergeiers.

One of the brief views we got from Gemmi, looking for Lammergeiers.

Leuk, Switzerland

Leuk, Switzerland

Leuk, Switzerland (Wallcreeper area)

Leuk, Switzerland (Wallcreeper area)

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Memory Lane

Barb did get to see where she had lived 53 years ago. So that part of the trip was successful. Here are comparison photos.Cugy2

Roads

The roads in Switzerland were very well-maintained – in France, not so much.
We drove mostly on secondary (and tertiary) roads, except when time was of the essence. The major highways were up to US standards in width, lanes, etc. The lesser roads were remarkably narrow – frequently no more than a car-and-a-half wide (frequently less) – and no shoulders.
So trying to bird along them was difficult at best. We could stop to look at a bird, but if another vehicle came along, we frequently had to move to a wider portion of the road to let them pass, thereby losing the birding opportunity.

The drivers in both countries, being familiar with the local roads, drove them a lot faster than we felt comfortable with – especially downhill on mountain roads. And motorcycles were the worst! We had never seen so many motorcycles. They rarely obeyed the speed limit, passed on curves, tailgated, and just generally were pests. Considering the speed at which they descended the curvy mountain roads, we assume that a few thousand feet below each curve there is a pile of dead motorcyclists that nobody cares about…

We used a Garmin GPS to navigate and it did a pretty good job. But it appeared to not have a grasp on what a good road is versus a narrow country lane. It frequently took us on roads which had a posted speed limit of 50, but could not be driven more than 35 – thereby greatly increasing the time it took to get from point A to point B.

In towns and villages, the roads were often even narrower (they refuse to tear down old buildings to modernize their road system) and making turns and getting around oncoming traffic was a treat.

Stop signs and traffic lights are rarities away from the cities. Many of the intersections are round-a-bouts (traffic circles). This keeps traffic moving, but could be daunting when traffic is high.

Barb did all of the driving (I’m the navigator and photographer) and she did a fantastic job considering the conditions. But we would both be frazzled at the end of the day!

Hotels

We were not interested in staying at luxury resort hotels, but just average hotels. Except for the first night, we used Booking.com to find and book hotels from night to night. We booked our first week of the trip before we left and then did day-to-day booking the rest of the trip (to give us some flexibility).

We decided for the first night that we would stay in a familiar place to ease the transition. We are members of the Holiday Inn Priority Club and stay at Holiday Inn Express whenever we can. They meet our needs, are comfortable, have a great free breakfast, and a refrigerator in the room for cooling drinks for the next day.

Well, apparently Holiday Inn does not keep the same standards in Europe as in the US! The room was small, instead of two queen beds, it was two twin beds (I almost rolled out of bed when I turned over the first night!), parking was not free, the entrance to the hotel had no cover, so we had to unload our luggage in the rain, no refrigerator, it offered “free” WiFi, but it was slower than a phone modem from 20 years ago – you had to pay extra for “fast” wifi, there were no electrical receptacles next to the beds, so I had to borrow an extension cord and run it across the room in order to plug in my CPAP (I have sleep apnea) – I’m surprised they didn’t charge for the extension cord!

The rest of the hotels we stayed in were okay, although they still tended to have much smaller rooms and beds than we are accustomed to. We always selected a hotel that offered breakfast and had a restaurant, however, several times, the restaurant was closed or the breakfast was not offered until 8 AM. So we had to scramble to get convenient meals.

Two of the hotels had small refrigerators in the room – but they didn’t work!

The hotels offered free WiFi and were usually fast connections, but one kept failing.

The hotels were very modern and clean on the inside, often old-looking on the outside. There generally was no coffee-maker in the rooms and when we did have one it was instant coffee.

The shower/tub stalls (especially in France) would have a hand-held shower and only a half-door. This meant you had to be very careful where you positioned yourself and the direction you sprayed or the bathroom floor would get all wet! Very impractical…

Birding

It was breeding time in Europe and we saw a number of juvenile birds during our trip. We knew birds during this period would not always be easy to see, but we were confident we could draw them out. At home, pishing will often bring out birds from hiding as their curiosity makes them investigate the odd sounds. In Europe, not a single bird responded to our pishing! We tried the usual pishing, squeaking and variations, but not one bird expressed any curiosity whatsoever.

The other strategy for seeing birds (especially during the breeding season) is playing their song so they come out to defend their territory against the intruder. Again, not a single bird responded to their call! We had a hard time figuring out what birds were calling, but even when we did, playing their call did not help. We had at least 20 to 30 birds that we heard, but never saw.

Of course, water birds were visible. And raptors.

Access to birding areas was also a problem. As far as we could find, there is only one book for finding birds in Switzerland, and it is 16 years old. It really should have been titled “The Hikers Guide to Finding Birds in Switzerland!” Most of the birding areas described consisted of getting to the area by public transport and then taking a 10-kilometer hike! Since Barb cannot walk great distances, we had to read between the lines and re-interpret the maps to find automotive access and short walks. This often failed. Many of the preserves had no public parking at all! And the maps for most preserves had no scale, so figuring out how far we might have to walk at any particular site was difficult.

The group of birds we missed the most were woodpeckers. We had two sightings of Middle-spotted Woodpecker, and that was it. We heard no drumming anywhere.

So we ended up with just 98 species (77 lifers) in two weeks. Pathetic…

Habitat

The northern part of Switzerland was remarkably similar to Pennsylvania – wooded hillsides and agricultural valleys. The mixture of trees was different – more conifers – but many of the tress looked familiar, poplars, basswood, sycamores, hornbean, oaks, etc. There were a lot of viburnums and elderberry in the understory.

The southern part of the country was the Alps, of course. We got above the treeline twice. Once using the cable car to look for the Lammergeier and once over a mountain pass. It looked very similar to Colorado.

In France, much of the area we birded along the Mediterranean coast reminded us of Florida and Arizona – flat, hot, sandy. Even inland, it resembled southeast Arizona – dry hillsides, olive-colored vegetation. But the vegetation was not thorny like Arizona.

The Crau in France was unique. It was flat, dry, and the ground was, in essence, cobblestones! Walking off the trails was impossible. No birds either.

Miscellaneous

In addition to Switzerland and France, we passed through portions of Italy, Austria, and Germany. The borders were open, no stopping.

On one of the autobahns, we stopped at a rest area and had this for a toilet.

Rest stop toilet

Rest stop toilet

The seat was spring loaded. You had to get ready to sit down, then push the seat down and sit on it. Once finished, the seat sprang up and automatically flushed!

We rented a Mazda CX-5 diesel manual transmission SUV. We got 44 mpg. It was comfortable, handled well, and just small enough to navigate the narrow roads. When you stopped at an intersection, if you put it in neutral, the engine stopped and would restart when you put it in gear. Also, the wipers had a rain sensor, so they automatically turned on in the rain.

Every gas station in America that has a convenience store has ice. Not in Europe! Out of all of the gas stations we stopped in or passed, we only saw one with an ice machine. So we were unable to have cold drinks in our cooler.

Everywhere we went in Switzerland (and to a lesser extent in France) there were cranes.

Cranes

Cranes

Every construction site of even just 2 or 3-story buildings had a crane looming over it. There must be some construction technique or OSHA-type requirements there that required cranes.

Best Birds

The best birds were Flamingo, Kingfisher, Roller, Bee-eater, Northern Lapwing, White Stork, Squacco Heron, Alpine Chough, and kites.

Biggest miss – European Robin!

Most-wanted birds that we missed – Lammergeier, Wallcreeper, Hoopoe

Trip List (* = lifer)

Graylag Goose*
Mute Swan
Ruddy Shelduck*
Common Shelduck*
Mallard
Green-winged Teal
Red-crested Pochard*
Common Pochard*
Tufted Duck
Little Grebe*
Great Crested Grebe*
Greater Flamingo*
White Stork*
Great cormorant
Gray Heron*
Purple Heron*
Little Egret*
Cattle Egret
Squacco Heron*
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Eurasian Spoonbill*
Short-toed Snake-Eagle*
Eurasian Sparrowhawk*
Red Kite*
Black Kite*
Common Buzzard*
Eurasian Moorhen*
Eurasian Coot*
Black-winged Stilt*
Pied Avocet*
Northern Lapwing
Common Sandpiper
Slender-billed gull*
Black-headed gull
Yellow-legged gull*
Little tern*
Common Tern
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse*
Rock Pigeon
Common Wood-Pigeon*
European Turtle-Dove*
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Cuckoo
Alpine Swift*
Common Swift*
Common Kingfisher*
European Roller*
Middle Spotted Woodpecker*
Lesser Kestrel*
Eurasian Kestrel
Eurasian Hobby*
Eurasian Jay*
Eurasian Magpie*
Yellow-billed Chough*
Eurasian Jackdaw*
Carrion Crow*
Common Raven
Calandra Lark*
Crested Lark*
Eurasian Crag-Martin*
Barn Swallow
Common House-Martin*
Great Tit*
Eurasian Blue Tit*
Eurasian Nuthatch*
Eurasian Treecreeper*
Western Bonelli’s Warbler*
Eurasian Wren
Eurasian Reed-Warbler*
Great Reed-Warbler*
Zitting Cisticola*
Sardinian Warbler*
Eurasian Blackcap*
Common Nightingale*
Common Redstart*
Black Redstart*
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush*
Blue Rock-Thrush*
Whinchat*
Eurasian Blackbird*
Fieldfare*
European Starling
Alpine Accentor*
Western Yellow Wagtail*
Gray Wagtail*
White Wagtail*
Water Pipit*
Yellowhammer*
Common Chaffinch*
European Greenfinch*
Eurasian Siskin*
European Goldfinch*
Eurasian Linnet*
European Serin*
House Sparrow
Italian Sparrow*
Eurasian Tree Sparrow*

Summary

We ain’t goin’ back…

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

We birded this morning in Ramosch — a small village in the eastern tip of Switzerland.

We finally saw a flock of Tree Sparrows (Red cap, black cheek, white collar, small bib).

We also picked up Common Sandpiper and Gray Wagtail — though no photos of either.

We also saw a male Whinchat.

We then headed through Austria back to northeast Switzerland. We went this way to avoid going over the mountains. Instead we went under them — through four 4-mile tunnels and one 8.6-mile tunnel (and many shorter ones)!

We are spending tonight in St Gallen. Tomorrow morning, we will bird the areas that we did in mid-afternoon on our day of arrival. Then on to the airport and home.

We expect to arrive home around 11:30 pm tomorrow. I have a bunch of Bird Screen orders to fill, PSO duties, and PAMC stuff to attend to before I will finish up the trip blog.

I will be adding a large section of non-birding stuff — from hotels to habitat descriptions, etc. So tune in again in a few days.

The trip list is 97 with 76 lifers.

Only a few photos today.

Whinchat, Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Whinchat, Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Tree Sparrow (finally!), Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Tree Sparrow (finally!), Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Mallard, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Mallard, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Eurasian Coot, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Eurasian Coot, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

We started the day in Locarno, Switzerland.

Since arriving in Europe, we forgot that there were not just House Sparrows, but also Tree Sparrows (which look similar). We had been ignoring the many “House” Sparrows all along. We finally wizened up and started to pay attention.

The Tree Sparrow is first recognized by a red cap (instead of gray on the House Sparrow). So this morning while birding a local park, we spotted some red-capped “House” Sparrows. Ahah! Well — not so fast.

They turned out to be Italian Sparrows (A cross between House and Spanish sparrows) now considered by some authorities as a separate species. The Italian Sparrow has the red cap, but also has the black chest of a House Sparrow and lacks the black cheek and white collar of the Tree Sparrow.

So we are still looking for Tree Sparrows.

We also added Water Pipit to our trip (and life) list. The Water Pipit was split from what is now known as the American Pipit several years ago.

Tomorrow, we head north towards Zurich.

The trip list is 93 with 73 lifers.

Only two photos today.

Wood Pigeon, Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Wood Pigeon, Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Italian Sparrow, Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Italian Sparrow (with breakfast), Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016, Leuk, Switzerland

Today we hunted for our two most-wanted birds — Lammergeier and Wallcreeper..

We went to where a local Swiss birder referred us — Leuk.

We followed the directions to a chasm of shear rock faces over a roaring stream cascading down the mountainside. We stared at the canyon walls for almost two hours, hoping to see a Wallcreeper fly. They are almost impossible to pick out on the rock face.

No luck!

We did see some other new birds — Alpine Chough and Alpine Swift — and got some photos of other birds.

We then took the cable car from Leukenbad up to Gemmi — which had been recommended to us as THE place in Switzerland to see Lammergeier.

As we entered the cable car and looked up at the cables, they disappeared into the clouds — as did we.

It was totally socked in up top, and we only had a few minutes at a time of breaks in the cloud cover below for us to scan. So we dipped out on that one too!

However, we did pick up Alpine Accentor and Snowfinch for the trip.

We are now heading to the eastern tip of Switzerland to finish up before heading back towards Zurich.

The trip list is 91 with 71 lifers.

Here are more photos.

Juvenal Black Redstart, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Juvenal Black Redstart, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Crag Martin, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Crag Martin, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016 (Barb took this one with her cell phone!)

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016 (Barb took this one with her cell phone!)

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Accentor, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Accentor, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

We birded The Dombes in France today. It is an area just north of Lyon consisting of hundreds of lakes and marshes, which are alternately drained and filled for agricultural purposes, making for a rich variety of wetlands throughout the year, but also making it difficult to know which ones to go to!

In the middle of all of this is the Parc des Oiseaux (Bird Park). We thought it was a nature preserve. It was a zoo — not only figuratively in number of people there, but also literally!

However, the habitat attracts native birds as well, so we decided to take advantage of the photo ops. I tried to take photos only of native birds taking advantage of the zoo’s hospitality — but I am not sure in all cases.

We then visited some of the nearby lakes and found Spoonbills, Lapwings, stilts, and Ruddy Shelducks, as well as our only nuthatch for the trip.

We then drove back to Switzerland, where we plan to try for Wallcreeper and Lammergier tomorrow! Our most-desired birds for the trip.

Tune in tomorrow for the results…

Trip list is 87 with 68 lifers.

Here are some photos.

Wood Pigeon, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Wood Pigeon, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts, Lapwings, Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts, Lapwings, Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Shelduck, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Shelduck, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Pochard, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Pochard, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Nuthatch, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Nuthatch, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Moorhen (Gallinule?), The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Moorhen (Gallinule?), The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Lapwings, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Lapwings, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Gray Heron, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Gray Heron, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Great Cormorant, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Great Cormorant, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Thursday and Friday, June 23-24, 2016

No, we didn’t die…

The internet connection at the hotel we stayed in last night kept disconnecting, so I gave up trying to update the blog. Also, our days seem to be getting longer and busier, giving me less time to work on the blog. I will add a lot more when we get home.

In the meantime…

Although we added new birds each day, few were expected species at the locations we went to. Most were birds seen while traveling from one birding “hot spot” to another. Many of the birding sites are not as described in the book.

Be that as it may, we are still seeing birds and hearing a lot more that we cannot identify.

Yesterday, we added Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Thrush. Today, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Crag Martin, Black Redstart, and Whinchat.

Tomorrow is our last day in France — back to Switzerland.

The trip list is 80 with 63 lifers.

Here are some more photos.

Whinchat, France, June 24, 2016

Whinchat, France, June 24, 2016

Crag Martins, Doux Valley, France, June 24,2016

Crag Martins, Doux Valley, France, June 24,2016

Chaffinch, France, June 24, 2016

Chaffinch, France, June 24, 2016

Common Buzzard being harassed by Eurasian Kestrel, France, June 24, 2016

Common Buzzard being harassed by Eurasian Kestrel, France, June 24, 2016

Linnet, Old Island Marsh, France, June 23, 2016

Linnet, Old Island Marsh, France, June 23, 2016

Black Redstart, Dentelles de Montmirail, France, June 23, 2016

Black Redstart, Dentelles de Montmirail, France, June 23, 2016

 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

As productive as yesterday was, today was the opposite.

We headed for The Crau, a dry, desert like area just east of the Camargue. We hoped to see Little Owl, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Lesser Kestrel, and more.

Not to be…

The temperature was in the 80s, not a cloud in the sky, and no shade.

We arrived at the museum in town to purchase an entrance pass, got a map and headed out to the preserve. Unfortunately, the map did not have a scale on it (all of the maps we have gotten at local preserves, etc. have been very poor), and so what looked like a short stroll around the preserve became a slog of several kilometers!

Barb turned back after we realized how far around it would be, but I slogged on. But I soon realized it was a lot farther than I had figured. So I also turned back.

If it weren’t for Jackdaws, Magpies, and Kites, I wouldn’t have seen anything.

While waiting for me to return, Barb had a Lesser Kestrel. This is THE place in France to see them — the place is managed for them. Well, I have to say their management plan sucks…

After returning to the car, we drove down a short road and did find a Calandra Lark.

We left that section and headed to the nearby landfill (don’t birders go to the neatest places?) to look for Egyptian Vultures which are supposed to summer there. When we got to the landfill, there was absolutely no dumping going on, so there were no birds hanging around — let alone, vultures.

We did however, find a Crested Lark.

Crested Lark, The Crau, France, June 22, 2016

Crested Lark, The Crau, France, June 22, 2016

We decided to go over to Berre Lake, which, although highly developed, was supposed to have some bird-friendly areas. By the time we got there, the traffic was horrible, routes that we expected to take were closed for construction, and it certainly had not cooled down. So we headed back.

By the way, France has an interesting definition of two-way road!

The road to our hotel. This is what France calls a two-way road! Note the width of the car hood.

The road to our hotel. This is what France calls a two-way road! Note the width of the car hood.

This road is barely wide enough for a car and bicycle to pass each other. If you meet a car coming, someone has to pull into a driveway or off the road to get by. And we thought Swiss roads were birder unfriendly…

With all that said, the trip has been fun so far. Here are a few photos of where we stayed the last two days (and tonight). It is very rural, lots of trees and bushes, but few birds…

It was originally built in the 16th century as a priory. It has 6 acres.

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room exterior, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room exterior, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Hotel grounds, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Hotel grounds, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room, June 22, 2016

The trip list is 73 with 56 lifers.

Tomorrow we head north.

Tuesday, The Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Today we birded the Camargue, a huge coastal preserve on the Mediterranean in southeastern France. It is like Brigantine on steroids. Marshes, salt-pans, brush, ponds, woods, etc. I have no idea how large it is, but is somewhere around 20 x 25 miles.

There were a lot of birds. Some of them, we couldn’t identify until we got back to the hotel and studied the photos!

The highlights were the Flamingos (of course), but also the Bee-eaters, and Short-toed Eagle. We discovered the eagle was banded when we saw the photos. The Bee-eaters, unfortunately stayed just far enough away that the photos were not sharp — but certainly enjoyable.

We will be birding more of this area tomorrow.

The trip list is 70 with 53 lifers.

Here is a gallery of some of today’s birds.

Zitting's Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Zitting’s Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow Wagtail, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow Wagtail, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow-legged Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow-legged Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

White Stork, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

White Stork, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Turtle Dove, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Turtle Dove, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Stonechat, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Stonechat, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Short-toed Eagle (with leg band), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Short-toed Eagle (with leg band), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Sardinian Warbler, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Sardinian Warbler, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Lizard, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Lizard, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Little Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Little Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Eurasian Jackdaw, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Eurasian Jackdaw, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Glossy Ibis, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Glossy Ibis, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Greater Flamingo, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Greater Flamingo, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Cattle Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Cattle Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-winged Stilt, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-winged Stilt, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-headed Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-headed Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Bee-eaters, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Bee-eaters, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Avocet, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Avocet, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

 

Monday, June 20, 2016

We spent most of today traveling (7 hours) from Cugy to Arles, France.

We got in a little birding in Switzerland and added Wren (our Winter Wren) to our list.

As we neared our hotel near Arles, Barb spotted some Cattle Egrets and, shortly thereafter, a European Roller.

European Roller, Arles, France, June 20, 2016

European Roller, Arles, France, June 20, 2016

That was our only lifer for today.

We will be birding the Camargue — a large coastal preserve — the next few days. The most notable bird that breeds here is Flamingo! Plus, we should see some shorebirds, gulls, terns, waders, etc. (At least they won’t be hiding in the trees…)

41 lifers so far.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

We started down memory lane today by driving over to Cugy (where Barb had lived for 5 months). Remarkably, we found her old apartment building — although with some changes (I thought we had brought along photos of it from 1963, but apparently not, so we will post comparison photos when we get home).

Barb's apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Barb’s apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Barb's apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Barb’s apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Okay, enough of non-birding!

We headed up to a nature preserve called Chavornay — a wetland, fields, and marsh. Just before we got there, we found a Eurasian Collared-Dove.

Eurasian Collared-Dove, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Eurasian Collared-Dove, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

At the first pond, a Purple Heron was preening.

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

From the observation blind, we saw Coots, Tufted Ducks, and this Great Cormorant.Great Cormorant, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Great Cormorant, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Another Purple Heron flew by.

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Also there, a Reed Warbler posed.

Reed Warbler, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Reed Warbler, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

I decided to walk down to check a nearby channel. Although I didn’t find any new birds, I did find Deer tracks — the closest we have come so far to seeing any wild mammals here.

Deer track, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Deer track, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

And another frog (at all of the wetlands we have visited so far, the frogs and toads are in full chorus).

Frog, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Frog, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

While I was doing that, Barb started walking back to the car. In a field of Swiss Chard (!), she found a Yellow Wagtail, which conveniently reappeared when I caught up.

Yellow Wagtail, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Yellow Wagtail, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

We next headed for the Vallee de Joux. As we pulled into the first wetland parking area, a Hobby flew in and raced back and forth over the stream and marsh for several minutes.

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Out on the lake were many Coots, Great Crested Grebes, and Black-headed Gulls. We drove down the lakeside, but didn’t find anything new. But as we pulled into a parking lot to turn around, a small bird flitted into a tree in front of us. It was a Redstart.

Redstart, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Redstart, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Although Tufted Ducks are common here, most of the ones we have seen have been distant. So a closer one on a pond was nice.

Tufted Duck, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Tufted Duck, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

While driving back to the hotel, we spotted a Common Buzzard.Common Buzzard, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Common Buzzard, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

In Pennsylvania, when a farmer is out mowing the hay, he is followed by a swarm of swallows. Here, he is followed by kites!

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites (Red on right), near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites (Red on right), near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Black Kite, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Black Kite, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

The triplist is 52, with 40 lifers.

We head to France and the Camargue (a large coastal preserve) tomorrow.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

We started the day outside our hotel in Twann and added Serin to our list.

Serin, Twann, June 18, 2016

Serin, Twann, June 18, 2016

And had nesting Barn Swallows.

Barn Swallow, Twann, June 18, 2016

Barn Swallow, Twann, June 18, 2016

We headed west to the Fanel and Chablais de Cudrefin preserve and found the La Sauge Nature Center there instead (I told you the book was out-of-date). However, this was a terrific spot. We spent most of the morning there. It had woods, ponds, brushy areas and blinds at the ponds. Here are some of the birds we got there.

House Sparrow (they're native here!), La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

House Sparrow (they’re native here!), La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Mute Swan (they're native here!), La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Mute Swan (they’re native here!), La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Great Tit, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Great Tit, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Graylag Goose, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Graylag Goose, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Gray Heron, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Gray Heron, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Common Kingfisher, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Common Kingfisher, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Female Blackcap, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Female Blackcap, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Squacco Heron, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Squacco Heron, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Wood Pigeon, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Wood Pigeon, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

White Wagtail, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

White Wagtail, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

The Fanel area is adjacent to the Nature Center, but required a long walk. So Barb continued to bird the nature center while I walked down to the Fanel Preserve. My first encounter was a Cormorant rookery.

Great Cormorants, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Great Cormorants, Fanel, June 18, 2016

A little farther down, I spotted some Red-crested Pochards.

Red-crested Pochard, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Red-crested Pochard, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Red-crested Pochard, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Red-crested Pochard, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Down near the observation tower, a Nightingale flew up from the pathway and landed on a post.

Nightingale, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Nightingale, Fanel, June 18, 2016

I added Black-crowned Night-Heron and Little Egret to the list and saw some terns way out, but couldn’t identify them. The common corvid the past three days has been Carrion Crow, but they have proved difficult to get close to for photo ops — until today. On the walk back, three of a flock of four crows flew off, but one stayed and didn’t care that I was there!

Carrion Crow, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Carrion Crow, Fanel, June 18, 2016

We headed further west to the Auried at Kleinbosingen — a nature preserve of ponds, fields, marsh and woods. Although we saw Little Grebes at La Sauge, this one here was more cooperative.

Little Grebe, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Little Grebe, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

It was also a good place to look for raptors. As mentioned in a previous post, pulling ff the roads here is almost impossible, so most of the hawks we have seen have been fly-bys. By the way, Red Kites are everywhere and half-a-dozen or more at times. At this location we saw Red and Black kites and Common Buzzard.

Common Buzzard, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Common Buzzard, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Black Kite, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Black Kite, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Black Kite, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Black Kite, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

We also had a lot of frogs an toads.

Frog (species?), Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Frog (species?), Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Our triplist stands at only 44, but 33 lifers!

We are spending the next two nights in a hotel near Cugy, which is the village that barb lived in 53 years ago. So we will be exploring that a little bit in addition to our birding.

Zurich – Thursday and Friday, June 16-17, 2016

In September 1962, Barb traveled to Europe and didn’t return until December 1964. She lived and worked in Switzerland, Austria (Innsbruck Winter Olympics!), Germany, and Luxembourg. The longest period of time in one place was Lausanne, Switzerland (Nov 62 – Feb 64), which is in western Switzerland, not far from Geneva. She has always wanted to return to reminisce and see what it looks like now.

So we have planned this trip as a birding trip with a pause in the middle down memory lane. We will be starting in Zurich, bird our way across northern Switzerland to Lausanne, look for her old stomping grounds, then on to the Camargure in southeastern France, bird our way back to Switzerland, across the southern half and back to Zurich.

The trip will be two weeks, and practically every bird we see will be new!

So here goes…

After an 8-hour flight from Newark, we arrive in Zurich around noon. Although we tried to sleep on the flight, we got very little. I had planned to visit three sites this afternoon, but skipped the last one, as we were worn out.

This first impression of this part of Switzerland is how much it looks like Pennsylvania — wooded hillsides and agricultural valleys! A slightly different mix of tree species (more conifers), but superficially the same. Also, the roads here are not birder-friendly — they are narrow and have no shoulders, so pulling off to look at a good (or great) bird is usually not an option. Although we are getting raptors, crows, etc. as we drive along, most of the birding is being done at “sites” from the Where to watch birds in Switzerland book (which is out-of-date).

Since it is the breeding season, seeing woodland birds was difficult at best. They were singing up a storm, but not knowing the songs (even though we tried to prep ourselves) made it very frustrating. Anyone who ever worked on a breeding Bird Atlas is familiar with this problem.

In spite of this, we saw a lot of birds (not enough!). We picked up a bunch of lifers the past two days and saw some AOU birds in a new light (Fieldfare, for instance).

We were totally wiped out last night (and the internet service at our hotel was laughable), so we did not get to the blog until now. Even tonight, it is almost 11 pm as I am writing this (6 hours ahead of EDT, by the way).

We will list our lifers and birdlist on another day as we reduce our itinerary (we bit off more than we could chew the first two days).

In the meantime, here is a gallery of photos so far (in no particular order).

White Wagtail, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

White Wagtail, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Tufted Duck, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Tufted Duck, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

White Stork, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

White Stork, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Great Crested Grebe, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Great Crested Grebe, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Gray Herons, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Gray Herons, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Fieldfare, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Fieldfare, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Coot, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Coot, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Red Kite, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Red Kite, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Middle Spotted Woodpecker, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Middle Spotted Woodpecker, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Greenfinch, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Greenfinch, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Fieldfare06162016

Eurasian Kestrel, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Eurasian Kestrel, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Common Swift, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Common Swift, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Chaffinch, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Chaffinch, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Blackbird, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Blackbird, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

More tomorrow.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Not a lifer, but close…redux

Temp in the 40s, overcast, light rain in the afternoon, Wind SSE 10-20

Still no Hawfinches or Bramblings.

At Sweeper Cove, a Horned Puffin was gracious enough to pose.

Horned Puffin, Sweeper Cove, May 29, 2016

Horned Puffin, Sweeper Cove, May 29, 2016

As I was taking this photo, we got a call from Paul and Don that they had a Far Eastern Curlew and a Whimbrel at Landing Lights Beach! We flew up there, and saw Don up on the sand dune. I scrambled up to see the birds, snapped a few photos, and then scrambled down to go farther up the dune to get closer, as they were heading up the beach.

In the meantime, Barb drove up to the top of the next hill in hopes of reaching Bill and Chris on the radio. It turned out to be not necessary, as over the hill came Paul, trailed by Bill and Chris. They climbed the dune and got terrific looks at the birds and then Don and I helped Barb up the dune so she could get a look (This wasn’t a lifer, but close!)

The birds flew a couple of times, but always returned to the beach. In flight, we could see the white up the back of the Whimbrel, making it the “Siberian” sub-species. That is the only sub-species that we have seen out here.

Here is a photo gallery.

"Siberian" Whimbrel, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

“Siberian” Whimbrel, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

"Siberian" Whimbrel and Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

“Siberian” Whimbrel and Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

"Siberian" Whimbrel, Far Eastern Curlew, and Glaucous-winged Gull Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

“Siberian” Whimbrel, Far Eastern Curlew, and Glaucous-winged Gull Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

Far Eastern Curlew, Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2016

Happy curlew-watchers! Chris, Frank, Barb, Don, Paul, and Bill.

Happy curlew-watchers! Chris, Frank, Barb, Don, Paul, and Bill.

We had seen a Far Eastern Curlew on our first trip to Adak in May 2005, but that one was far out on the Clam Lagoon flats and only stayed 15 minutes or so. This one was much nicer. It was a lifer (or ABA Lifer) for everyone else.

The boat from Attu was due in around noon, so we anxiously waited for their arrival, hoping the birds would remain. They arrived at Sweeper Cove, climbed into several vehicles and headed for Landing Lights Beach. They parked part-way up the dune, clambered up, but did not spot them. In the meantime, we drove ahead, planning to scan for the Temminck’s Stint up at Clam Lagoon. However, we stopped at the Navfac Creek viewpoint (which is the north end of Landing Lights Beach) and there were the curlews! We radioed the other groups and they arrived and all had good looks. As far as we can tell, it was a lifer for most (if not all) of the other birders!

We continued up to Clam Lagoon, but could not find the stint. However, the Red Phalarope was still there, giving everyone great views.

Trip Summary

We ended with a trip list of 66, two above average.

We added two birds to our Adak List — Surf Scoter and Red Phalarope

No lifers, but several Semi-lifers — Far Eastern Curlew, Temminck’s Stint, Red Phalarope

Notable records — Western Sandpiper (only 2nd or 3rd spring record), Red Phalarope (not rare, but very uncommon on land), Least Sandpiper (only our 3rd record), Wood Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Brambling, and Hawfinch.

Birds we missed — Smew and Black-crowned Night-Heron (both seen just before we arrived), Peregrine Falcon, Redpoll, Ruff, Yellow-billed Loon, Wandering Tattler.

For the first time in years, all of our return flights left and arrived early or on-time!

We will be back in September…

Saturday, May 28, 2018

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, light variable wind changing to SSE 10-15 in the afternoon

There have been no sightings of Bramblings for several days, and only one report of Hawfinch yesterday morning. After not seeing any for several days, we saw a pair of Tufted Ducks on the Airport Ponds today.

We did not see any new birds today. The Horned Grebe is still here as are a few Pacific Loons.

The Aleutian and Arctic Terns are becoming more active and close.

Aleutian Terns coming in to bathe at Lake Shirley, May 28, 2016

Aleutian Terns coming in to bathe at Lake Shirley, May 28, 2016

After two trips to Clam Lagoon, we spotted the Red Phalarope and Temminck’s Stint again. Yesterday, Bill and Chris did not get the most satisfying looks at the stint, so it was nice when it flew from farther out on the mudflats to the edge of the flats right below where we were standing on the road. They both got great views.

Temminck's Stint, Clam Lagoon, May 28, 2016

Temminck’s Stint, Clam Lagoon, May 28, 2016

At the Palisades, a Pacific Wren was singing away.

Pacific Wren, Palisades Overlook, May 28, 2016

Pacific Wren, Palisades Overlook, May 28, 2016

The Attu boat is coming in tomorrow and several of the birders on board need the stint, so we hope it sticks around.

Our trip list stands at 64.

We leave tomorrow at 6 pm Adak time and expect to arrive home around 6 pm Eastern time Monday. So this will be our last post until Tuesday when we will wrap up this trip.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Not a lifer, but close…

Temp in the 40s, overcast, occasional very light drizzle, Wind light SSE

No sign of the Hawfinch today, but the other birders were looking again as I write this. No Tufted Ducks today.

At Sweeper Cove, Ancient Murrelets are often easy to see and pose for photos (These are the kind of birds we like — easy to identify!).

Ancient Murrelet, Sweeper Cove, May 27, 2016

Ancient Murrelet, Sweeper Cove, May 27, 2016

We found nothing new on Sweeper Creek, so we headed up to Clam Lagoon. At the viewpoint of Kuluk Bay near the Navdac Creek, we finally added Horned Grebe to our trip list. We were worried that this would be our first May trip without one.

We didn’t see anything new on the Clam Lagoon flats, so I decided to walk out the peninsula.

Just a short way out, a small shorebird flushed in front of me and flew back behind me, between me and Barb, who was watching from the truck. I could quickly see that it was a “peep”, had light legs, and was not a Least Sandpiper. This left two possibilities — Long-toed Stint and Temminck’s Stint. Since we needed Long-toed, we tried to make it into one. However, no matter how we tried to fit a square peg into a round hole, we couldn’t. Paul and Don arrived shortly, and later Bill and Chris. Chris, having spent some time in China, confidently identified it as a Temminck’s — of which he had seen plenty.

So — not a lifer, but since the only other one we had previously seen was in classic fall juvenile plumage — all gray — this was a semi-lifer for us.

Temminck's Stint, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2016

Temminck’s Stint, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2016

Temminck's Stint, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2016

Temminck’s Stint, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2016

By the way, the Red Phalarope was still there, also.

We continued around Clam Lagoon. At the East Ponds (next to the Seawall), a Common eider posed nicely.

Common Eider, East Ponds, May 27, 2016

Common Eider, East Ponds, May 27, 2016

At the Seawall, there were four Pacific Loons today (Paul and Don counted at least 8), but no Arctic Loon.

Pacific Loons, Seawall, May 27, 2016

Pacific Loons, Seawall, May 27, 2016

There were the usual assortment of scaup and mergansers on Lake Shirley, as well as this Mallard shepherding her flock.

Mallard w/young, Lake Shirley, May 27, 2016

Mallard w/young, Lake Shirley, May 27, 2016

Speaking of shepherding her flock, a few days after we arrived, there was a Northern Pintail with seven ducklings in the pond across from the Clam Lagoon West Lookout. Each day as we went by, the number dwindled until today when there were none. By the way, I posted a photo of probably this same female with young on my blog back on May 17, 2013.

As I was writing this, Chris called to tell us he saw a small gull on Clam Lagoon that could have been a Bonaparte’s or Black-headed. Although we have Black-headed on our Adak list, we don’t have it yet for this trip, and Bonaparte’s would be a new Adak bird for us.

So we headed back up there. When we got there Paul and Don were already looking at it with their scopes — it was a long way out. It was a Black-headed in winter plumage. We had one like this last year. The distance was too far and the lighting so poor that we decided to try tomorrow for photos — if it sticks around.

That brings this trip list to 64. One above average.

A day-and-half to go…

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional rain/drizzle, Wind SSE 10-30 falling to 10-15 in the afternoon.

No new birds.

Two Hawfinches still here.

Hawfinch, near Seal Drive Feeder, May 26, 2016

Hawfinch, near Seal Drive Feeder, May 26, 2016

No Brambling sightings in the past two days. The Red Phalarope is still hanging out at Clam Lagoon. It does not appear to be injured, as it flies around quite well. Although not a lifer, this was certainly the closest look at a breeding-plumage female Red Phalarope that most of the birders here had ever seen — sometimes as close as 20 feet!

Also, we saw the Arctic Loon again today — now with three Pacifics. We had one Ruddy Turnstone at the Landing Lights.

Today was flight day. The groups from Fairbanks and Minnesota flew out this evening. They were a delight to bird with.

Paul Budde arrived to spend a few days birding the island before going out on the Adak Pelagic trip. So now there are us, Bill and Cathy Mauck, Chris Feeney, Don Harrington, and Paul.

Speaking of the airport…

Up-to-date parking facilities at he Adak Airport!

Up-to-date parking facilities at the Adak Airport!

Here is the mandatory annual rainbow shot.

Rainbow, May 26, 2016

Rainbow, May 26, 2016

The trip list stands at 61.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Not NA rare, but Adak rare…

Temp in the 40s, overcast with some (very little) sun in the afternoon, rain and drizzle most of the day, Winds S 20-30.

The overnight storm brought a few birds today.

The weather conditions at the feeders today were not very conducive for observations, so we did not see any Hawfinch or Brambling today. There were still four Tufted Ducks at the Airport Ponds.

We headed north, and when we got to the Clam Lagoon South Lookout, we spotted a small shorebird scurrying out on the flats. Our first impression when viewed through the scope was a Western Sandpiper. But it was a little too far out to be sure. So Frank walked out to get a better look (ie. photos). It was a Western Sandpiper. Although we have seen Western Sandpipers on all of our September trips, this was our first spring record. And, in fact, Birds of the Aleutians cites only one other spring record for Adak !

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

We continued around Clam Lagoon and, near Candlestick Bridge, there was a large number of gulls feeding together. So far this trip, the tides (both high and low) have been very low, so the flats have not been replenished with sea life since we got here. Today the tide covered much of the flats, creating more feeding opportunities for the birdlife — as seen by this picture.

Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

At the Seawall, we spotted three loons — two Pacific and an Arctic. We called JJ’s group (who we had just passed) and they came and saw them, as eventually did the other birding groups on the island as well. The Arctic was our first for this trip.

As we came back around to the western side of the lagoon, we ran into the group from Minnesota, who told us we just drove past a Red Phalarope! We hopped out of the car, looked behind us at the edge of the road and there was a Red Phalarope. We were so focused on the other group as we approached them that we weren’t looking for birds! This was a new bird for our overall Adak list, giving us a total of 140.

Red Phalarope, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

Red Phalarope, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

Red Phalarope, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

Red Phalarope, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

We headed to town, checked the feeders – still too windy – and went back up to Clam Lagoon. Everyone was there, having just walked out to see the Western Sandpiper. After they left, we stayed awhile to see what else might fall out of the sky. Unfortunately, the only bird of note was a lone Cackling Goose flying by.

Aleutian Cackling Goose, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

Aleutian Cackling Goose, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2016

Our trip list is 61.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Come on birds! Where are ya?

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, Wind S 15-30

The strong westerly/southerly winds have yet to dump any new birds on Adak (at least that we could find!).

We had one Hawfinch and one Brambling today, as well as four Tufted Ducks.

Some of the other birders reported decent views of pelagics at the Loran Station today, so we headed up there.

By the way, someone finally moved the huge boulder that was blocking the last mile of the road to the Loran Station! So you no longer have to view the sea from a mile back of hike to the station for closer viewing. You can now drive all of the way out.

We had several Laysan Albatross within binocular distance, but I couldn’t find them in the camera, so no photos. No other pelagics.

After returning to town, we headed south to Finger Bay. We ran into JJ & co., who relayed an observation to us. First a note about Aleutian Song Sparrows. One of the names we use for them out here is Songpipers, as we always see them down on the shoreline acting like sandpipers, foraging along the water’s edge and shoreline.

Now the observation. They said they aw a Song Sparrow at a little eddy in the stream and it was fishing! Four times in a row, it stabbed at something in the water and each time brought up a small silver fish. They were so enthralled, they forgot to grab their cameras! I guess we should rename it Fishing Sparrow…

Their calling for gale-force southerly winds the next few days, much like last year at this time. Let’s hope they produce the same result — good birds.

Our trip list remains at 58.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Temp in the 40s, overcast to partly sunny, wind W 10-20

No new birds today, although the Fairbanks crew (JJ, Scott, Eric, Rita) thought they might have had three Hawfinches at the feeder this morning. We spent an hour there this afternoon and only saw one Hawfinch and one Brambling. However, the Brambling was singing away! (If you want to call that raspy trill a ‘song’?) It was still neat to hear.

Still 4 Tufted Ducks. No shorebirds other than residents. However, the Red-necked Phalaropes are becoming more conspicuous as they start setting up territories.

We had both Common and Wilson’s snipe at Contractor’s Camp Marsh, but no other shorebirds.

At Clam Lagoon, it was a fine day for sunbathing…

Harbor Seals, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2016

Harbor Seals, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2016

The trip list holds at 58.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Just another sunny day on Adak…

Temp in the 40s, sunny!, wind N 5-10 switching to SW 10-20 in the afternoon

As mentioned in a previous post, the ravens have taken over the Sandy Cove Bluff Feeder.

Common Raven, Sandy Cove Bluffs Feeder, May 22, 2016

Common Raven, Sandy Cove Bluffs Feeder, May 22, 2016

At Sweeper Creek, we finally found a Northern Shoveler. We have had a pair there each of the last few years, so we were wondering if they had finally died or left for nicer environs. Apparently, at least the male has survived.

Northern Shoveler, Sweeper Creek, May 22, 2016

Northern Shoveler, Sweeper Creek, May 22, 2016

Since it was a sunny day, we decided to make the annual pilgrimage up to White Alice (the bluff west of town where the cell towers are). As we were enjoying the view (not many birds usually up there), a flock of Cackling Geese flew by.

Aleutian Cackling Geese, White Alice, May 22, 2016

Aleutian Cackling Geese, White Alice, May 22, 2016

We spotted some Red-necked Phalaropes in some of the small ponds on the way up, but on the way down, one was particularly cooperative.

Red-necked Phalarope, Bering Hill area, May 22, 2016

Red-necked Phalarope, Bering Hill area, May 22, 2016

We headed north and at the Palisades, a couple of Black Oystercatchers were carousing, so Frank hiked down to the beach and caught one napping.

Black Oystercatcher resting, but keeping a wary eye open, Palisades Beach, May 22, 2016

Black Oystercatcher resting, but keeping a wary eye open, Palisades Beach, May 22, 2016

While I was down on the beach, Barb was scanning the bay and saw a whale surface briefly, but it dove and we never relocated it.

With sunny skies and good visibility, we went out to the Loran Station to scan the sea for pelagics. The view was fine, but no pelagics. However, three young Bald Eagles were cavorting overhead.

Bald Eagle, Loran Station, May 22, 2016

Bald Eagle, Loran Station, May 22, 2016

Bald Eagles, Loran Station, May 22, 2016

Bald Eagles, Loran Station, May 22, 2016

Bald Eagles, Loran Station, May 22, 2016

Bald Eagles, Loran Station, May 22, 2016

Also, a Glaucous-winged Gull flew by for a photo-op.

Glaucous-winged Gull, Loran Station, May 22, 2016

Glaucous-winged Gull, Loran Station, May 22, 2016

Five more birders arrived tonight — JJ, Scott, Eric, and Rita together and Don to join Bill, Chris, and Cathy. Don arrived, but not his luggage!

After settling in, they headed over to the feeders and found there were now two Hawfinches! The flock is growing…

There was a lot of snow this winter, and the local mountains show it. Notice the different amount due to elevation.

Mt Adagdak, 1614 ft

Mt Adagdak, 1614 ft

Mt Moffet, 3924 ft

Mt Moffet, 3924 ft

Mt Sitkin, 5709 ft

Mt Sitkin, 5709 ft

There is even a patch of snow at the Warbler Willows, which is under 200 feet elevation.

Our trip list is 58, just 5 shy of our average May trip.

Saturday, , May 21, 2016

Temp in the 40s, Overcast, fog, occasional drizzle, Wind NW 10-15.

The birds, they are a-movin’…

Nothing at the feeders during the morning rounds.

At Sweeper Cove, a Pacific Loon is hanging out just outside the small boat marina. But every time I try to get close to get a good picture, it sees me coming and swims farther out!

We headed up to Sweeper Creek and, as we were leaving that area, we turned down a road near the Power Plant that goes down to a little wet area (There are a LOT of “little wet areas” out here!). As we approached, three shorebirds flew out, circled and landed behind a nearby building. I walked around it and found two Wood Sandpipers (don’t know what happened to the third). We called Bill and they arrived shortly and had nice looks at one of the birds.

Wood Sandpiper, near the Power Plant, May 21, 2016

Wood Sandpiper, near the Power Plant, May 21, 2016

We found four Tufted Ducks still at the Airport Ponds.

We returned to town for a pit stop and decided to check the feeders again. At the Seal Drive Feeder another Brambling popped out. This one was brighter than the Elfin Forest one from yesterday, and we later found out that Bill and Chris were looking at the Elfin Forest bird about the same time we were looking at this one. So two Bramblings, so far…

Brambling, Seal Drive Feeder, May 21, 2016

Brambling, Seal Drive Feeder, May 21, 2016

We could not reach Bill, so we continued on.

The godwits appear to have left and we found no other shorebirds at Clam Lagoon.

We headed over to Andrew Lake and finally spotted a Red-necked Phalarope for the trip.

Back to town we went. When we saw the Seal Drive Brambling earlier, it was raining, so I got very poor pictures. So we decided to try again. We pulled up to the feeder location and shortly a Hawfinch popped out! We called Bill and they arrived shortly and not only saw the Hawfinch, but got nice looks at the Brambling as well.

Hawfinch, Seal Drive Feeder, May 21, 2016

Hawfinch, Seal Drive Feeder, May 21, 2016

I was informed by Kitty LaBounty (who was with us on Adak last May) that the sure way to identify a Morel is to look inside. They are hollow.

Morel it is!

Morel it is!

Our trip list is 54.

Note: I made a typo on the trip list spreadsheet earlier, so this is the new correct number.

Keep those birds coming…

Friday, May 20, 2016

Finally, something to brighten our day…

Temp in the 40s, occasional sun, occasional rain or drizzle, Wind W 10-20

The feeders around town were still not producing any Asian vagrants.

At Sweeper Cove, a couple of Ancient Murrelets wouldn’t turn around, which made for an interesting photo.

Ancient Murrelets, Sweeper Cove, May 20, 2016

Ancient Murrelets, Sweeper Cove, May 20, 2016

There were still four Tufted Ducks on the Airport Ponds and the Aleutian Terns have started feeding there. We had a dozen or more.

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh, Frank walked over to where the Ruffs had last been reported, but could not find them. He did get a couple of Common Snipe winnowing.

We went to check the Warbler Willows and, as we were leaving, we got a call from Bill and Chris (Feeney, who flew in yesterday) that they had found a Brambling at the Elfin Forest. We hurried up there and saw a nice male.

Brambling, Elfin Forest, May 20, 2016

Brambling, Elfin Forest, May 20, 2016

Brambling and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Elfin Forest, May 20, 2016

Brambling and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Elfin Forest, May 20, 2016

At Clam Lagoon, there were only five Bar-tailed Godwits left, as well as two Pacific Golden-Plovers.

As we were scanning the flats, a flock of a dozen or so passerines flew across the flats heading west. Frank, Chris and Cathy walked the edge of the flats/marsh in hopes of kicking them up, but found nothing. Flocks of any  passerine in the spring are intriguing, as the local birds generally are not seen in large flocks this time of year. You might see a half-dozen Rosy-Finches (or more at a feeder), but rarely this many. So we have no idea what they were.

We also saw Arctic Terns for the triplist.

At the Seawall, we were able to pick out Shearwaters and Layson Albatross far offshore.

Addendum: Yesterday after dinner, we drove up to Clam Lagoon in hopes that the wind was dying down, thereby allowing better looks (and possibly photos) of the Kittlitz’s Murrelets. Alas, the winds picked up instead, making the waters too choppy. However, I did get the obligatory Otter shot.

Sea Otter w/pup, Cla Lagoon, May 19, 2016

Sea Otter w/pup, Cla Lagoon, May 19, 2016

Also, while getting gas yesterday (down to $6.49 a gallon!) one of the people on the High Lonesome tour pointed out to me some mushrooms growing nearby. I believe they are Morels.

Morel?, near gas station, May 20, 2016

Morel?, near gas station, May 20, 2016

These are the first mushrooms that I have seen out here.

The triplist is 51.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, occasional drizzle, Wind W 10-15 mph

Nothing new at the feeders.

Five Tufted Ducks continue at the Airport Ponds.

At Sweeper Channel, we found a Least Sandpiper. This is a rare bird on Adak, but has been seen each of the last three years, with a pair displaying on territory two years ago!

At Clam Lagoon, we had an American Green-winged Teal. This is a rarity out here, as what the Europeans call the Common Teal is the norm out here.

At the Breaches, we had the first Red-necked Grebes of the trip.

There were two Ruddy Turnstones on Goose Rocks.

Nothing else new to report.

Overall, so far, the number of most migrants is low. We usually see hundreds of Buffleheads, but this year its under a hundred. The scoter numbers are down, very few Common Goldeneye (in fact we haven’t run into them yet, although the tour groups reported some.) No unusual ducks like Shoveler, etc. No Cackling Geese except one reported by the tour groups (a flyby). The number of godwits is above average.

Although some terns are here, they have not yet settled in to feeding routines at Clam Lagoon and the Airport Ponds, so we have yet to get close enough to identify them. We have only seen some flying at a great distance. However, we expect that will change in a few days.

So, a relatively slow start — especially compared to last spring! — but the last week of May is when the most vagrants tend to show up.

The trip list stands at 45.

PS. Sorry, no photos today…

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, W wind 10-20

The feeders are attracting finches, but no Asian relatives yet.

We went down to Finger Bay and Creek, but had nothing of note there.

At Clam Lagoon, we had only 17 Bar-tailed Godwits, but added three Pacific Golden-Plovers to our trip list.

We finally caught up to one of the Gyrfalcons that the other tour groups had reported. It was sitting on the Blue Building (literally using the bird feeder!). It was a very pale (but not white) bird. We have never seen a white Gyrfalcon out here. They have all been gray or brown.

Gyrfalcon, Blue Building, May 18, 2016

Gyrfalcon, Blue Building, May 18, 2016

Two Ruffs (actually a Ruff and a Reeve) had been seen the past few days at Contractor’s Camp Marsh, so we finally decided to look for them, but did not find them.

The two tour groups leave tomorrow evening. We hope the shifting winds bring something good in for their last day.

Our trip list is 41.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Temps in the 40s, Partly sunny, N wind 10-15.

We started the day by checking feeders. The Sandy Cove Bluffs feeder has been taken over by ravens, as has the Adak National Forest feeder! The other feeders have begun attracting rosy-finches, so we hope their feeding activity will in turn attract vagrant passersby…

The Airport Ponds were hosting two pairs of Tufted Ducks. And we found another male in the ponds below the Airport Escarpment.

We found two Common Snipe calling and displaying at Contractor’s Camp Marsh. Warbler Willows have not leafed out yet, so they are not as attractive as in the fall, when they provide more cover for passerines. So we didn’t find anything there. Haven Lake had a few Eurasian Wigeon.

At Andrew Lake, we got our first Common Loons for the trip and then spotted a Black-legged Kittiwake, which obligingly came in and landed beside the road in front of us.

Black-legged Kittiwake, Andrew Lake, May 17, 2016

Black-legged Kittiwake, Andrew Lake, May 17, 2016

A trip out to the Loran Station was unproductive, as was our swing around Clam Lagoon and the Seawall. But on our return around the lagoon, we had nice (if distant) looks at several pairs of Kittlitz’s Murrelets.

Kittlitz's Murrelets, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2016

Kittlitz’s Murrelets, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2016

Frank walked out the Clam Lagoon Peninsula and found the godwits. There were 25 of them. We continued down towards town and spotted 3 more on Landing Lights Beach.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2016

Bar-tailed Godwits, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2016

Our trip list is 39.